Yellowstone Park, Wyoming – We rented a van and tour guide. Yes, it was expensive. Very expensive. But my daughter is with child; we had two children with us; and I have a bum leg and a rare disease. Toward the end, I found it was well worth it.
The park was established in 1872 by President U. S. Grant. It is the oldest in our national park system and sits on the open part of a super-active volcano whose last eruption was 640 years ago. The road system is a figure-8 with the loops forming the north and southern boundary of the caldera, the active part of the volcano. The volcano last spewed forth rock and debris all the way to Los Angeles. We were to tour the northern part of the figure-8.
I had requested that our tour guide be versed in both the history and science of the area. Both my daughter and I were biologists, and we were very interested in those aspects. Little did we suspect just who our driver-cum-tourist guide was.
A little old man in his 70's greeted us in that large van. He introduced himself as Chuck, a retired neo-natal doctor from North Dakota. He had retired and opened a "dude ranch" and ran it for about six years. He had a number of animals; a llama, horses, cows and a menagerie of other critters I can't recall. I was grateful for the medical background, but did he know the park? Deed he did!
We drove a few miles and entered the park. And then we drove and drove and drove through miles of lodge pole pines while our guide talked about the history of the park. He would point out places as we drove by them reciting the history." Why didn't we stop," I wondered. I was anxious to get out and meander. After all, all we were going to was "Old Faithful," the geyser, and then head for home. How wrong I was.
Our first stop was the Yellowstone Waterfall. A huge lake, eons ago, ruptured and sent millions and millions of gallons of water to form this incredible chasm. It was beyond deep. One could yell way...down...there. The waterfall was the center of the attraction, a minor player in the unimaginable beauty of the place. Huge multi-coloured cliffs formed the sides, while the creek flowed at the bottom, most times unseen but heard by the viewers.
The second stop was at a lake, a huge lake, that was the highest in North America, some 7,000 feet above sea level with summer time high of 38 degrees. The lakefront hotel was built in 1893 and had recently undergone renovation to the original colours and scheme. It had an immense dining room with tables and chairs of a 1890s era. A long porch enabled people to sit and view the waters. An old bright yellow touring car that brought guests from the train station had been completely restored to the tune of $250,000 sat in front, one of four undergoing restoration. The cost to stay there was $350-$400 per day and it was fully booked from July 4th to September 7th.
The final stop in our journey was Old Faithful. The lodge has been constructed of Lodge Pole Pines and was immense as one looked up at the ceiling. Huge and cavernous was the order of the day. On the floor was a gift shop, but we wanted to get outside. Poor Mary, her daughter, and my son fell asleep in the car.
We walked around the geysers and noticed the bubbling waters and the heated pools; we were very satisfied with those attractions, never mind Old Faithful. There were wide walkways for us to observe the flowers and other fauna.
Old Faithful, the geyser we had come to see, was expected to erupt at 2:10. A huge semicircle around it accommodated the several hundreds of guests, with benches three deep. We sat next to a couple from Darby, England, home of the famous Yorkshire vet, James Herriot. While waiting for the eruption, I learned a great deal about life in that small, quaint town.
Old Faithful finally spewed forth and what a spectacular sight it was. The water shot out of the ground in a geyser that went 100 feet into the sky. At first it huffed and puffed its way to its spectacular height and then sprayed most of us like wind-driven rain.
Unfortunately, Mary got a bad case of altitude sickness and we had to miss the last three stops on our tour. The doctor/tour guide suggested she drink water and rushed us back to a lower altitude where we purchased a smoothie. That seemed to relax her.
I had expected that all we would see in Yellowstone was Old Faithful. Little did I know there are hundreds of smaller attractions on that Northern loop which we had not seen. We had not even begun to try to see the southern part.
It would take weeks and weeks to explore just the known part of Yellowstone and that would not even include the rough, unexplored sections.
I am very happy we got to see just a miniscule of this famous land.
...Life is good. . . . .