Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 8, Roaring Mountain, Norris Geyser Basin and Old Faithful

This is the book we use that tells us everything we didn’t know we didn’t know.

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been traveling a week, and only have a week to go. We are having so much fun, and time is skimming by.

Today we drive south. We are up early, to avoid the crowds. Too late, there is already a line for coffee. They have delicious biscotti; huckleberry for AdventureMan and Cinnamon for me. It is cold, so cold I put on my levis for the only time on this trip. We are headed to one of my favorite places, the Norris Geyser Basin.

We beat the tour groups for the only morning

On the way, we stop at Roaring Mountain, another of my favorite spots. It is a cloudy day, but that is OK at Roaring Mountain, a sulpherous, misty site full of fumaroles, holes out of which pour hot steam. In the cold morning air, the steam shoots out, and then billows dramatically around the mountain. 

Clearwater Springs
Roaring Mountain
Emerald Springs

The Norris Geyser Basin had two great hikes, and the parking lot has what we call Rock Star Parking when we get there, very few people. 

We love this hike. The first attraction is Steamboat Geyser, which is unpredictable but is always looking promising when we see it, burbling up with little bursts of geyser enthusiasm. Along the track are many geysers, but also bubbling pits and brilliantly colored springs of boiling water. All the steaminess is exaggerated in the morning cold. We can’t believe it can be this cold in mid-August. 

Steamboat Geyser at Dawn
It’s inviting, and deadly

AdventureMan tells me – and this is really true – that a man fell into one of the springs at Norris Basin, and died, and that his body dissolved in the chemical rich pool. He didn’t die on purpose, but, like many tourists, he wanted to take a dip. His sister says he tripped over his own flip-flop, fell in and died a terrible death, boiling to death. Aargh. 

Rockslide en route holds us up a couple minutes while blockage is cleared
Firehole River and Falls, a great side route

We head on to Old Faithful. There is a long boardwalk there I have never walked, and we have little hope it will be uncrowded. We decide to have breakfast first, and discover the dining room is not open, does not seem to be serving meals at all. The grill is open, all grab and go, so we pick up breakfast and for me, coffee, and ask if we can eat on the terrace. They tell us yes, so we head upstairs, and there is a lovely spot with a bench and two tables overlooking Old Faithful, so we set up there and have one of the most unexpectedly lovely breakfasts of our trip. 

Old Faithful Inn
Last time we stayed here we were in the room in the upper right corner

We could watch Old Faithful erupt from our front row seat, but we decide to leave our location for someone else, and to hike out to another vantage spot good for watching the eruption. It is a great walk, we find a good place and just as I am about to walk to the prime location, a family stops there and claims it. We sit nearby, and a bison comes near. The family can’t resist, they decide to follow the bison, so we get the place after all. 

We sit, and an EcoTour comes and joins us. We get the advantage of all this knowledgeable young guide’s experience just sitting there and listening. As we are listening, a Park Ranger comes hustling up to try to keep people from getting too near the bison. It seems to be a never-ending battle; people seem to think this is like Disneyland and nobody gets hurt. Wrong. People get hurt all the time. These are WILD animals and they are becoming less and less afraid of human beings. That is a bad thing, and can become disastrous. 

The Bison is in the upper right quadrant of the photo

AdventureMan took the guide aside after Old Faithful did its thing and tipped him, told him to have a beer on us because we benefitted from his discussions even though we weren’t a part of his group. We love young people who love their jobs and do them so well. 

We learned that early-mid morning is a great time to visit Old Faithful. There were people, but not so many, even in this near peak of summer visitors.

What we noticed is that there were no buses full of Chinese. No buses full of Japanese. No large groups of visiting Indians. No large groups of students. No European youths. We met one French-Canadian biker along the Firehole Falls road; he had started at the Canadian border and said he had 20,000 more miles to go. The bikers in Yellowstone and Glacier earned our unalloyed admiration – they were riding up very long high hills with gear. They had their sleeping bags and small camp stoves and their clothing. I cannot imagine how they persisted, but they almost all looked strong and wiry and like they were loving every minute of their biking experience.

We got in over 12,000 steps today. AdventureMan is happy.

We went into Gardiner for dinner, to the Wonderland, a restaurant we discovered the last time we were in Yellowstone, a couple years ago. We were astonished – we went early. Almost every table was full! They did have a table for us, and we were very grateful. I had trout with aioli sauce, AdventureMan had elk chili (it was sprinkled with powdered sugar, and was sweet!) with their famous jalapeño cornbread. Wonderland was hopping busy; we were so impressed with the way the team all worked together. While the servers were taking orders, others would be taking plates away, filling glasses, bringing food from the kitchens – everyone helping each other. It was awesome to behold. 

Trout with mashed potatoes and aioli sauce
Elk chili with jalepeno corn bread

Back at our cabin, coming back from a post-dinner walk, we looked up the hill behind our cabin and there was a huge bull elk! It had a huge rack of horns, and looked so noble as he sauntered along the hill. Word spread quickly and people grabbed their cameras, mostly cell phones, and ran out to the street to catch a photo of this magnificent animal. He was far enough away that the few people who gathered didn’t bother him, he barely noticed our existence, and we were very quiet and respectful. I didn’t have my camera, only my cell phone. I took pictures anyway. Nothing could capture the full grandeur of this creature, but we all clicked away in sheer astonishment and admiration. There are hundreds of female elk and little elk calfs around, but this is the only bull elk I ever saw in Yellowstone. 

Bull elk behind cabins
Such a thrill I had to put in two photos

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Hotels, Local Lore, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Entering Yellowstone National Park – A Day of Thrills

You know I am a map lady, and a navigator. Being a map lady is really helpful when you discover that in spite of the fact that you downloaded all the relevant maps (you thought) into your smart phone, there are times the smart phone won’t show you the next section of the map in the detail you need. This is our plan for today, with a side trip up to Norris Geyser Basin, which I really want to see.

We love our car. We rented from Enterprise, and when we got there, they gave us a little SUV, not unlike our own cars back home, and it was plenty of room, very comfortable, and all wheel drive. Our only tiny criticism of this car is that the turning radius is not that of a Rav4. We are spoiled. We love being able to turn on a dime.

There is one other little thing. You know there is a thing, in Seattle and in Montana . . . a thing about Californians. When the Californians leave California because housing prices and taxes are too high, they move to Seattle and to Montana, and then the housing prices start going higher in those places and the Californians get the blame.

For example, when we got to the South 9th Bistro, in Bozeman, we weren’t sure it was OK to park where we parked, so we asked the head waitress if it was OK. She said it was, and I said “well, our rental has a California plate,” and she gasped, then said “I think you’ll be OK,” and we both laughed. The point is, if you have a California plate, you need to be a little more careful. It’s just the way it is.

We didn’t hurry to hit the road this morning, as it is only a short drive to our next overnight, and we are feeling relaxed.

Marriages are funny. You don’t know what you don’t know when you get married. I thought every family travelled like my family, i.e. you get up really early and hit the road and drive a few hours and then stop for breakfast at some rest stop along the autobahn, then you get back in the car and drive more hours until the next meal or Dad has to gas up the car and then you drive more until you get “there.”

My husband was all about stopping all the time to enjoy a view or stretch or have a soda, and by the end of the day were often weren’t “there” yet and had to keep driving, making us both cross. Sometimes we were barely speaking by the end of the day.

After much soul searching, we slowly through the years adopted new, better practices. Now our phrase is “Shorter Days, Longer Stays.” It seems to be working.

We headed straight back to Feed for breakfast. It was phenomenal. AdventureMan had biscuits and gravy with a hit of eggs on top and the best fried potatoes ever. I had an omelette, and grilled toast. Total Wow.

 

Leaving Bozeman, we followed Highway 191 down to the West Entrance of Yellowstone, and before we even reached the entrance to the park, the great adventure began.

This was sheer good luck. I had my camera ready to take a photo as we drove by and just by chance caught a group of white water kayakers and rafters on their own grand adventure.

 

Not long later, we had to stop. There were bison on the road, with bison babies (probably called calfs) and they were huge, and not the least bit interested in us.

 

 

There was quite a line at the West Entrance – it was the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. I imagine the lines only get worse as the season goes forward.  We headed for the Artist Paintpots, and were heartsick when we saw the parking lot full and people parking outside the parking lot all over the place, and buses and people rushing as if they might never get another chance to see the paint pots. We really wanted to see them too, but we were spending several days in the park, and we knew we had time.

We headed on to Norris Geyser Basin, which for me, was one of the highlights of the day. First, there weren’t a lot of people, and most of the people there were hiking the much shorter Porcelain Basin, while we were hiking the Back Basin. It was mostly all boardwalk, with a considerable number of stairs near Steamboat Geyser and some woody trails coming back. In between are some of the most desolate, eerie, and fascinating natural wonders I have ever seen.

Steamboat Geyser was the most fun. We must have spent 45 minutes there, while the geyser spurted and gurgled and growled and totally teased us into believing it was going to erupt full scale, but it never did. We were told we were lucky to see it so active, but it reminded us of Africa were the tourists are constantly told how lucky they are, that this is a very rare sighting. You get a little skeptical after a while. I already felt lucky enough, watching boiling hot water bubbling out of the earth.

Here is something I took very seriously.

 

It’s hard to show you how spectacular this scenery is with a static photo. Please imagine the steam coming sizzling hot out of the ground and drifting up. Imagine acres of steam coming out of the ground.

 

Emerald Spring

 

Steamboat Geyser

 

 

 

 

 

Look at those colors! Bacteria that thrive in the unimaginable hot temperatures create rainbow like colors, some all reds and oranges and yellows, some all greens and blues and purples, all, for people who are addicted to color, irresistible.

 

 

Below is the Porcelain Basin walk, much shorter.

 

 

 

 

We left en route to the Old Faithful area, trying one more time to get into Artist’s Paintpots, but the parking, it is hard to believe, was even worse! We continued on.

We found a one way side road along the Firehole River, which was a lot of fun. We always love the side roads.

The Firehole River is wild. It is pounding hard as the mountain snow cover melts, but it is also fed by the natural hot springs along its bank. In warmer times of the year, people are actually allowed to swim in this river, but you have to be careful. You can be comfortable and then suddenly find yourself in very hot water (not just a figure of speech.)

Our last stop before getting to the Old Faithful Inn was the Black Sand Basin, and Spouter Geyser.

 

 

Spouter Geyser

One really nice thing about our National Parks – at just about every stop, there are restrooms. Some are more primitive that others, some are long drops, but most are fairly clean and supplied.

June 22, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Environment, Geography / Maps, Marriage, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment