Our drive here was somewhat delayed, as the GPS gadget had decided to take us to a shopping mall in another town that had “Yellowstone” in the name. Because, of course, we assume it knows what it’s doing, it took us 30 minutes before we finally got suspicious and investigated.
When I was kid, we made several family trips to Yellowstone. It and the Teton mountains are remarkable. Literally some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth.
I vividly remember a trip here in the late 1970's, in our faithful blue Datsun 610 stationwagon (for those too young to know, Datsun became Nissan in the early 80's). My father spotted a large buffalo near the road, and pulled over to get pictures with his humungous multi-lens Nikon camera (my father is an untalented photographer, but tries hard. He has over 300 slides he took of the Golden Gate Bridge in the early 70's, shot from every possible ground angle).
So as we sat there, Mr. Buffalo decided he wasn't too fond of the blue Datsun (or worse, thought it was attractive) and decided to investigate it. So as it came over, we all piled into the car. Dad decided to drive away slowly, trying to get shots of the buffalo through the rear window, neatly framed by my sister and I screaming at him to go faster. But he kept driving slowly away, letting the buffalo catch-up, reassuring us that he could step on the accelerator anytime he wanted to.
It was at this point that the Datsun's transmission began making a horrible noise.
We were now much slower that the buffalo, and my father kept stepping on the gas pedal trying to get away. As the buff closed to about 20 feet the car suddenly lurched forward, veered off the road, swung back on it, and left the frustrated buffalo behind.
So it was somewhat comical that today, when I drove into Yellowstone with my family, the guy at the entrance handed us a map and a large yellow paper that said "Buffalo are dangerous! They weigh 2000 pounds and can run 30 MPH. Do not allow them too close to your car". I hoped they were giving it to everyone, and not saying "Hey! that's the guy who's dad tormented a buff 34 years ago! Give him the flyer!"
Old Faithful, the geyser basins, paint pots, Mammoth Hot Springs- all phenomenal, unearthly areas. Of course, all of this was lost on my kids, who were whining about (Heaven forbid!) having to walk around to see things. So we told them to shut up and keep walking.
We ended up following a ranger around, as he led a tour group. The experience gave me some further appreciation of the park, and dramatically increased my already high esteem for rangers. Because this poor lady was being bombarded by stupid questions to rival those in my practice:
"Do you run the geyser's at night? Or only when the park is open?"
"What time do you bring the bears in for the night?"
"How did they know where to dig holes so geysers would form?"
As we walked around, I heard a teenage girl (covered in piercings and tatoos) complaining about the pathways and informational signs, saying that "it ruins it all, they should just leave things the way nature made it". Is that irony, or what?
Before setting off we decided to feed the whiny kids. This plan ended when we were trapped in line behind another tourist, who wasn't a native English speaker. In fact, as best I could tell his only English words were "Pizza" and "Coke". They didn't have pizza, and the teenage guy trying to patiently explain this to Mr. Pizza was fighting a losing battle. So we left. The whiny kids deserved granola bars, anyway.
As we drove through the park I saw signs that said "Warning: Frost Heaves!" We didn't know what frost heaves were (I've since looked it up, so you don't need to tell me). I was amazed at the number of signs for them. Apparently frost heaves are on a par with Astroturf and Al Queda as a threat to civilization. I was glad to finally have a chance to look up info on them, as I’d guessed they meant barfing from overeating ice cream.
We actually saw bears on this trip, at close range, albeit from the car. I haven’t seen them here before, although I’ve encountered pretty much everything else. It was cool.
After our day at Yellowstone, we began heading for Seattle, but were tired and didn’t get far. We stopped in a small town, which had a restaurant advertising “$7 footlong hot dogs- $5”. We had some trouble finding a room, but finally did, and set up Camp Grumpy.