Thursday, September 10, 2015

15 years and 2,858 miles: Yellowstone

After spending the morning in the Grand Tetons, we drove into Yellowstone.  The original plan was to drive the entire figure eight in Yellowstone.  I had mapped out seven spots I wanted to stop and see.  They were going to be quick stops because we only had one day in Yellowstone.  But because we spent so much time in the Grand Tetons, we ended up with only the afternoon and evening in Yellowstone.  That's definitely not enough time, but we made the best of what we had, and I certainly have no regrets about what we did or didn't get to see.
Our first stop was, of course, Old Faithful.  The first thing we noticed about Yellowstone was that it was VERY crowded and VERY touristy.  I mean, it was beautiful.  But it was definitely more commercialized than Glacier and the Grand Tetons.
It took us about 15 minutes to even find a parking spot at Old Faithful.  It had also begun raining.  The geyser was expected to erupt within the next 45 minutes, and we decided to wait.  We both felt like there was no way we were going through all of that and not see it.  So we waited.  And, sure enough, it was faithful.

We hadn't even got started very good along the figure eight, but we decided after we left Old Faithful that we just didn't have the time to drive it and see everything we wanted to see.  We stayed on the south loop.  There was a lot of traffic, and it was very slow going.  We finally made it to the West Thumb Geyser Basin, which was one of the spots on my list of seven.  We didn't take the hike to Yellowstone Lake because I REALLY wanted to see the Grand Prismatic Spring.  But the basin was most definitely the most interesting place I've ever been.

Of all the places in Yellowstone, I was most excited to see the Grand Prismatic Spring.  I'd seen the most gorgeous picture online of this deepest royal blue in the center spring that gave way to the brightest hues of turquoise and jade and yellow and orange on the outsides.  But it definitely did not look like that when we were there.  I'm pretty sure Photoshop sets people up for disappointment sometimes.  I wasn't necessarily disappointed, but it just wasn't what I expected based on what I had seen.  Seth also reminded me that weather conditions had to be absolutely perfect to move the escaping steam away so you could really see it.  And, by this time, a storm was moving in, and the weather conditions were deteriorating.   

And then it was pouring down rain.  And it was cold!  It was also about this time that a tall, skinny pine tree fell over the road right in front of us.  There was still a lot of traffic, cars behind us, cars coming toward it.  And it was only a two-lane road.  We couldn't go anywhere.  Seth and a guy in another vehicle both got out and were able to move the tree off the road.  In the process, Seth broke his finger.  Or so we think.  He didn't go to the doctor until two weeks ago.  And he went to an urgent care clinic who specializes in the common cold.  And I still can't see the "break" on the x-ray.  But whatever.  So he wore a splint for about 10 days, but it didn't seem to get better, only worse.  I finally gave him a talking to a couple of days ago about going to an orthopedic, but it has miraculously "gotten better."

Our next stop was the "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone."  I took these pictures in the pouring down rain so that's why they are so foggy looking.  I've seen waterfalls before, but this is the most majestic waterfall I've ever seen!  I wanted to stay here, I wanted to hike Uncle Tom's Trail.  But I just couldn't do it in the freezing rain.  Anyway, it was something.   

We started making our way south again to exit the park.  It was late afternoon by this time, and we were both tired.  We were looking forward to going back to the hotel and also getting something to eat.  But we ended up sitting in the same spot on the highway for an hour.  We had no idea what was going on.  We thought there had been an accident or something.  But there wasn't.  A herd of bison were apparently crossing the road and just didn't want to move out of the way.  Yes.  Seriously.

Even though we didn't drive the north loop and even though I didn't get to see everything I wanted to in Yellowstone, I think we did as much as we possibly could in the time we were given.

Seth is still looking for bears, by the way.  We never saw any, but we did come upon this elk.  Seth made me take a picture because this was the biggest one we saw.
As we left Yellowstone and drove back through the Grand Tetons, it stopped raining.  We got to enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen.  Everything was . . . golden.  

We crashed that night and then woke up the next morning and drove eight hours back to Denver.  The following day we flew back to New Orleans.  Never have I been so ready and so excited to hug and touch my babies as I was that day!

I want to go back.  I want to go back to Glacier.  I want to go back to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.  I LOVED everything about our trip, and I wouldn't change a thing!  But next time I want to stay put in the same place a little longer.  I want to spend a couple of days in Yellowstone and make the entire loop.  I want to hike a little more.  I want to just sit a little more.  We covered a lot of miles in not a lot of time.  I think what we did would really be best if you had at least two weeks.  But, again, I have no regrets.

When we were at Glacier, we met a family from the United Kingdom, a dad, mom, two sons and grandfather.  I asked them how in the world they ended up in Glacier National Park in Montana.  The dad responded, "This is my dream trip!  This is the trip of a lifetime!  We flew into Houston and rented an RV.  We drove to New Orleans and then up to Memphis to see Graceland.  We drove up to Route 66 and traveled it a ways.  We saw Mount Rushmore.  We went to Yellowstone and now we're here.  We're headed to Seattle next, and then we're going to fly back home."

I thought about that a lot.  The trip of a lifetime.  I felt so honored that this family felt that way about MY country, about the place where I live (although they said New Orleans was their least favorite!).  And I just felt such an overwhelming thankfulness that I had the opportunity for what was, to me, the trip of a lifetime.  That's what it was.  And it was a trip with the man of my dreams, the one I am spending this lifetime with.  I am blessed indeed.

The children have since been begging us to take them to see what we saw.  I think they mainly want to fly on an airplane.  I am not about to take a 2,858 mile road trip with them!  But I'd love to take them to Yellowstone.  And I'd love to take them to Colorado and explore there a bit.  I think we'd have great fun there.  There were several places we learned about but didn't have time to visit.  So for now, Seth told them that we'd try to go to Gatlinburg next year.  As for me, I'm trying to figure out how we can see more of this great countryside.  I'm thinking there will be more road trips in our future.  I had the Grand Canyon in my sights, but I just don't know about that drive.  But today I started working on another road trip.  I mean, if we're going to Gatlinburg, maybe we could go ahead and go on into Kentucky and up towards Ohio.  I'd really love to take the kids to the Creation Museum.  But, of course, I haven't told Seth about this yet.

Oh, and I'm also planning our 20th wedding anniversary trip.  It's my dream trip.  And it's a big one.  I have only five years to talk Seth into it though.  I told our UK friends that my dream trip was to their country.  The dad said, "Good luck with that.  Start saving now because it's really expensive!"  A girl can dream though!

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