Day 10: Shoshone & Yellowstone National Parks
As I’m writing this, I am in a very pretty and very eco-friendly Yellowstone hotel room that has soap bars shaped like teddy bears and a lobby that looks like it came straight out of a ski lodge advertisement. Caroline got thoroughly overenthusiastic about the Keurig that came with the room, but I’m mostly miffed that this Internet is costing me $4.95 an hour (I didn’t think people charged for Wi-Fi in North America, with the obvious exception of Canada).
We were on the road for pretty much the entire day, stopping only for lunch (in Cooke City, Montana, home of the 2011 Miss Montana) and for photographs. My mother was inordinately grateful for the paved roads that most national parks seem to feature now–as she put it, it’s the American style of sightseeing: fast-paced, with little to no energy required, and from the air-conditioned, bug-free comfort of your moving vehicle.
I can’t say whether I like Shoshone or Yellowstone better. For the time being, I’ll let the scenery speak for itself. First up, Shoshone National Park, in Wyoming.
We clambered onto a side road that led to the top of the mountain, where I decided to get out and photograph the valley below. The idea was that I would get dropped off with the camera, the car would drive on a bit further, turn around, and pick me up on its way back.
The mosquitoes disagreed with my plan. As soon as I paused for more than a second to snap a photo, they would land on me in droves, six or seven at a time, and chase me as I ran from them.
To make matters worse, the bites swelled to the diameter of a quarter within seconds, and I ended up running pell-mell up the mountain towards the car, trying to photograph the breathtaking views as I sprinted along, violently pursued by what seemed like every blood sucking insect in a ten mile radius.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that these next photos came at a great personal cost.
There was even snow and ice on the ground where I was running, though the temperature was hovering around the sixties. Much to the delight of B&C, we had a snowball fight on top of a mountain in July.
The bugs only dissipated at the very top of the mountain, but by then it was around 45 degrees outside, and the wind drove everything else out of my mind.
We finally made it to Montana, at which point we promptly turned around and drove right on through to Yellowstone. The wind was pretty terrible here, too.
The tourists here seemed to be much more comfortable with breaking the rules. In the Badlands, we were warned to stay at least 100 yards from any bison, and all the people we saw were happily obeying. Here, however, eager housewives and toddlers armed with their parents’ cameras were strolling right up to the bison, within 5-10 feet, snapping photos and exclaiming with glee after each one.
Not wanting to frighten them, we decided to use the handy feature known as Zoom.
After driving through a long stretch, we wound up at some hot springs and geysers, which were incredible (albeit horrifyingly smelly). I have smelled sulfur before, and after today, I hope to never smell it again. The sight of the beautiful thermophilic organisms that colored the springs was fantastic, though B&C and I gave each pool a wide berth, fearing the stench of the steam that billowed off the surface.
Here, too, people paid little to no attention to the posted warnings about the tricky thermal ground. We even saw a couple meander right up to the edge of a hot spring, completely ignoring the DANGER and STAY ON THE TRAIL signs. Upon witnessing this terrifying sight, B&C took off, sprinting as fast as they could away from the couple, in case the ground exploded underneath them.
Now, finally, it is time for bed.