Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Because of the construction closing the road we took into the park, we decided to drive out after doing a big loop of Yellowstone, head through Montana, then go south via the Beartooth Highway and Chief Joseph Byway and spend our final night in Cody again. It's not as daunting as it sounds - maybe 180 miles total. We left the Lake Hotel and drove to Old Faithful, which was by far the most crowded part of the park that we've seen. They have benches set up all around Old Faithful, and the times of eruption are posted everywhere. We caught the 11:57 a.m. showing. It went off as promised, which was good, because Jason predicted a riot with all the people there if it didn't go. We then did the 2-mile loop of the other geysers in the area, ranging from the incredible multi-colored Morning Glory pool to my personal favorite, the Spasmodic Geyser.
Our drive continued north past the Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the park, and through Mammoth Hot Springs, which is a series of upwellings that create travertine terraces. From Mammoth we were making the long drive east through the park to get to Montana when we saw a bunch a people with telephoto lenses on their cameras parked on the side of the road.
Now, our concern was that we'd been faked out before. These lunatic birdwatchers will park with their cameras on the side of the road waiting for a sighting of some obscure bird - a "purple-breasted woodchuck" or a "cyan-fringed blue jay" as Jason said - and totally make you think that something cool, LIKE A BEAR, was by the side of the road. But nooo, they're waiting for some dumb swallow or something. So seeing all these people didn't exactly excite us.
That was, of course, until I saw the bear.
We pulled over and ran out with our cameras. It was probably a teenage brown bear about 100 yards from the road, just wandering around and playing in the grass. After taking some photos, we got back in the car and drove another mile down the road, only to find another cluster of people. This time it was a momma brown bear and her two cubs. I didn't see one of the cubs, but she had plonked the other one behind a root cluster of a tree so only its little head was sticking out. There was a ranger there because these bears were significantly closer to the road - only about 30 yards away. He said that the bear was "a good momma" and has a habit of attacking people who got too close to her cubs. He said that a couple of weeks ago a similar crowd had formed around her, and one guy went 10 feet closer to get a better photograph. She noticed that this guy had strayed away from the human herd, thought he was a threat, and chased him into the van he was driving. At which point she started attacking the van. I used my telephoto lens to get pictures of the cub.
The rest of the drive was comparatively uneventual - although the corner of Montana we saw is a breeding ground for a good dozen more Unabombers, I'd say - and we arrived in Cody in time to, you guessed it, go to the rodeo again.
Posted by Annie D at 3:59 PM
We drove through the south part of Yellowstone to go to the Grand Teton National Park today. The mountain range is huge and looks exactly like the Ansel Adams photograph that everyone knows. They were still covered in snow for perhaps the top 4,000 feet. We ate lunch at the phenomenal Jackson Lake Lodge in the park, which overlooks a huge meadows with critters (Deer? Antelope? Moose?) and a great view of the mountains. Afterwards we did a 2-mile hike around Jenny Lake and had a close encounter with a deer, an antelope (yes, it's where the deer and antelope play, wocka wocka) and a couple of families with obnoxious children.
We ended the trip by driving south to Jackson Hole, which is so, so L.A.-adjacent. We kept an eye out for Demi and Ashton and Calista and Harrison as we walked through the shops and galleries around the downtown area, saw a studio for sale for $650,000 and eavesdropped on women complaining in a local coffee shop about how the women in her 7 a.m. pilates class are sooo mean. You want cowboy? Go to Cody. You want galleries with $10,000 antler chandeliers? Go to Jackson Hole.
Driving back up through the park, we stopped for a picnic dinner on the shores of Jackson Lake. We made sandwiches from stuff we bought at the Colter Bay Village in the north end of the Grand Tetons. It was a great view with a storm rolling in off the Tetons and the sun setting.
Posted by Annie D at 3:58 PM
Oh, and the coffee shop in the museum is named the Pony Expresso.
We drove the 50 miles west to Yellowstone in the early afternoon, and the going was slow because of construction within the park and a creaky motorhome that overheated in front of us. It's amazing to see how much of the park is still impacted by the big fires of 1988 - there are acres and acres of 20-foot dead trees, surrounded by 5-foot green, healthy trees. It really looks like two forests thrown together.
We stayed at the Yellowstone Lake Hotel, built in the 1920s, and as one of the guidebooks promised, very Gatsby and Daisy on the inside. There's a huge lobby with floor to ceiling windows and a view of the lake, with a bar and a guy playing a grand piano.
The lake itself is huge - 20 miles by 13 miles - and cold, to a hypothermia level year-round. Yes, I've been watching Discovery Channel too much and reading Bill Bryson, but it's very hard to look at it and think that it's the supervolcano caldera that's going to end human life as we know it any ol' day now. It just seems so placid. And so mosquito-laden.
Posted by Annie D at 3:56 PM
This is from June 1, 2005: The flight from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City went fine - the plane went on to Chicago so to my semi-horror all the white people got off the plane in SLC and all the black people stayed on to continue the flight. Yep, Utah. From there we took a puddle jumper to Cody, Wyoming. A couple from West Virginia seated behind us whooped: "Ahhh! Civilization!" when we landed in Cody, population 9,000. They were looking for property to buy there.
The first thing I noticed getting off the plane was that they wind was sharp and incredibly clear. You hear all the talk about Big Sky country, but you don't really realize how true it is until you can see to the top of 10,000-foot snow-capped mountains in every direction. It's really quite startling coming from L.A.
We stayed at the Irma Hotel, which Buffalo Bill built in the late 1800s and dedicated to his daughter, calling it "the swellest hotel there ever was." It followed the fine line between rustic and modern very well - the furniture was authentic but there was heat and hot water. Oh, and animal heads. Lots of animal heads. The moose gave me the evil eye.
At night we went to the Cody Rodeo and proved what hearty souls we are by staying outside for the entire 2-hour event despite the fact that it was 30-something with windchill. We've been to the hot shot National Finals Rodeo in Vegas - so seeing it on the local level gives you a whole new appreciation for the sport. For instance, the involvement of children with deadly livestock was a new experience. 8-year-old bull riders, y'all. 8-years-old.
Posted by Annie D at 3:53 PM