Sunday, August 12: Yellowstone
North to Canyon Village
We broke camp. The tent footprint wasn’t completely dry, but it was dry enough to go for a half day’s drive. We had breakfast at the Grant Village Restaurant, and on the way out ran across a female elk beside the paved path. I wonder if it was the same one that we saw on the way to the Lake House the other day.
I wanted to go to the ranger-led program at the West Thumb Geyser Basin at 10:30, but we were also out of underwear for Mike. So we drove to the laundry/shower area, and put in a load of laundry. While Amy was doing that, I was putting on sun screen, trying to avoid yesterday’s mistake. Then Amy drove me to the geyser basin. She returned to finish the laundry, while Mike was going to take a shower.
I found the program, my first “real” ranger-led program of the trip, rather interesting. According to the ranger, the West Thumb basin was “the place” to go 100 years ago. Back then, the big draw was that basin and not Old Faithful. Also, they apparently had the road right next to the features where there is now a boardwalk, and there were lots of buildings where the parking lot now is. Then they figured out that putting a complex on top of a active geothermal area was not a great idea. So they moved/removed the buildings and built Grant Village a short distance away.
It was also interesting that on the “hike” to Tower Falls I saw a guy with no leg below the knee using a prosthesis. On the ranger-led walk, there was a woman from New Zealand with only one leg. She got along rather well using her one leg and two crutches.
When the walk was over, I went back to the parking lot to find Amy and Mike waiting. I got in, and we blasted off for parts north. It was about noon, so despite our experience of last night, we decided to go the Lake House restaurant for lunch. There, we were in for a big surprise.
Coincidentally, at the table next to ours was a family from Northborough! They had a girl just entering 8th grade who recognized Michael. It seemed like a very small world indeed.
After lunch, we continued north. Unfortunately, today while sunny was extremely hazy. We guessed (and found out later that we were correct) that this was due to some large fires west of the park (upWind from us). That is too bad, as it really wrecks any sort of picture that involves distance.
We arrived at Canyon, checked in, and set up our tent. It should be pretty quiet tonight. We’re on the edge of the sites, so there is no one behind us.
Then we continued north to the Lamar Valley, as we had heard that there was good wildlife viewing there. We found that it was an extremely broad valley (like Hayden Valley). So far, the photography has been poor. We saw some pronghorn resting in the heat, and large herds of bison, but both far enough away to avoid good photos. Likewise, vista-type photos don’t really cut it because of the haze. We pulled off at one promising location, and Amy and Mike are out hunting wildlife, while I keep this journal up to date.
After writing the above, we turned around and started back. We stopped at a pool or two to look for more birds, but we didn’t find much.
We came back to Canyon and went straight to dinner. This was the rare day when we actually got back a bit early. We finished dinner around 7pm, then drove across the street to our camp site. I dropped Amy and Michael off, who wanted some down time, then I drove off to the north rim.
I went to the Brink of Lower Falls. This was vaguely like Uncle Tom’s trail, except that it was just 600 vertical feet of switchbacks, no stairs involved. I took a number of pictures, then headed back up. Between the driving, hiking, and picture taking, that took me about an hour, so I didn’t have time for more.
I was driving back to the campsite when I crested a ridge and saw this big red meatball sinking into the western sky. It was a blood-red sun, due to the smoke in the air. I pulled over and took a bunch of pictures, but it was impossible to photograph. If the foreground was remotely visible, the sun was blown out. If the sun was visible, then the foreground was a complete silhouette. With the right foreground this could have been nice, but I didn’t have much choice in foreground.
Our plan is to get ready for bed (more or less), catch the campfire program at 9, and then hit the sack. This will be only our second campfire program, which is too bad, as that was a favorite part of mine in years past. But we can’t keep Michael up too late on a regular basis.