If you really want to share in our Yellowstone experience, you need to look at this week’s photos on abj.smugmug.com. The album is called Van Trek August-2 2013. Even then, it’s impossible to convey the truly awesome marvels of God’s creation that we saw this week. Art kept saying, “I never thought I’d see this in person.”
Some of it I remembered from the Gardner family trip in 1964, but much of it was “new again” to me too. After all, on the former trip, I had spent a lot of time thinking about and writing to a young man back home, who sent me letters General Delivery to cities around the west, most of which caught up with me when we got back home! But we were young and in love. Forty-nine years later, that’s still true! Well, we’re not young, but we’re more in love than ever before.
But I digress. Over the course of four days, we managed to traverse most of the figure eight roads that are called “the loop” in Yellowstone National Park. Not being sure of our dates, we put off making camping reservations until it was too late, so we had to be creative. The first night, we drove up a long dirt road to a trail head on a mountainside with an awesome view of the sunset and sunrise the next morning.The duvet-covered low-temp sleeping bag provided a snug and comfortable sleep. The next two nights we left the park (on the other side of the figure-eight) to park on side streets in the town of West Yellowstone. The fourth night, we arrived at a large campground in the Great Tetons in time to get a site there. So the overnight situation worked out quite well, despite my initial concerns.
And the sights we saw as we traversed the roads inside the caldera of a giant volcano! Yes, most of Yellowstone sits within the former “fire pot” of an ancient volcano! The geothermal sites are remnants of a long-ago eruption, and even today, they change constantly when minor or major earthquakes move and shake the underground sources of the thermal pools, springs, mud pots, vents, and geysers. The park is much different than it was in the days when my grandparents visited in the 30s, and has even changed a lot since I was last here in the 60s. One ranger told us that the walkways are movable for this reason. He said that one walkway was moved fourteen feet this season!
Old Faithful is still the main attraction, but it is not the largest geyser in the park. It is still faithful, though its cycles have lengthened, and everyone can be sure of seeing at least this one geyser erupt, if they can wait up to 90 minutes. Just as impressive to me was the huge Old Faithful Inn, the amazingly-engineered lodge that was built in 1903-04 and constructed completely of lodgepole pine logs. The multi-story lobby with its 500 ton, 85’ tall fireplace, is one of the most impressive man-made sights I have ever seen. The lodge is possibly the largest log structure ever built. We decided to splurge and have grass-fed beef burgers in the dining room and ice cream from the deli for lunch. I’m glad we did, because we were so busy after that, we didn’t have time for supper.
Someone asked us what impressed us the most. It’s impossible to say. Grand Geyser (erupts twice a day) was certainly one thing that comes immediately to mind.
Lower Yellowstone Falls is truly awesome, and sunrise from atop Mt. Washburn was brilliant. Elk, bison, moose, and other creatures roaming in their natural habitat, clear mountain streams bordered by steam vents, with mountains soaring above, and even the hailstorm which caught us by surprise, are vivid memories that we will always cherish. But in addition to these, we really enjoyed talking with people as we saw all these things. A two and a half hour wait (Grand Geyser) goes much faster if you’re talking to others. Over the course of four days, we talked with a ranch family from Montana, an amateur photographer carrying a huge camera and tripod, a lovely family with six children, a homeschool mom, a college student who wants to go to New York and act (she walked through the hailstorm with us) and many others. In both natural and personal terms, we are realizing the vastness of this great country, and thanking God for the privilege of seeing it together.