Actually, today we started in Montana and ended in South Dakota. But much of the day was spent in Wyoming, as we arrived in that state just after crossing into Yellowstone National Park. We’re staying in Rapid City, SD, just over the border with Wyoming.
It was a Wyoming kind of day, I guess.
We left the motel room right at 8am on schedule. We were only a couple of miles from Yellowstone at that point, so it didn’t take long to get through the gates. Once we did, the scenery just took our breath away.
There really aren’t any words to describe Yellowstone. Everywhere you look, it’s gorgeous. Big rocky hills, chilly babbling streams, gorgeous evergreen trees (although many are scorched from various wildfires), and that’s just the flora!
The fauna was out in force today as well. My father-in-law drives a charter bus for a living, and he’s been to Yellowstone with a tour group more times than he can count. He warned us that sometimes animals will cause traffic, partly because they’ll be in the middle of the road, and partly because we humans will do stupid things (like not get off the road all the way) in order to take photos of the animals.
Boy, was he right!!!!
Our first encounter with wildlife was a buffalo standing on the side of the road, minding his own business and trying to forage for some breakfast. Grace was thrilled to see him! She kept saying, “Buff-lo?? Buff-lo!!!” for miles after encountering the one on the side of the road. We only really noticed him because everyone had pulled off the side of the road, and we were wondering what in the heck everyone’s problem was! Why wasn’t the traffic moving??
Well, duh. There’s a bison on the side of the road. That’s not something you see every day.
We continued farther into the park, and found a whole herd of buffalo. They were just sort of chilling out, hanging around, not doing much of anything. I took a couple of shots and we headed on out to the thermal fields.
There are a ton of hot springs all over Yellowstone. I guess that didn’t really dawn on me. I mean, you hear about Old Faithful all the time, but I never thought of all the other little geysers and steam-vents all over the park. They stink, too!! It reminded me of working in the lab just after college, when I wouldn’t pay enough attention, and I’d end up with a sulfur dioxide leak.
Rotten eggs, anyone?
Grace wasn’t too fond of the steam-vents. She kept saying, “Stinky!!!” We tried to get a photo of Kurt and her at one of the vents, but she would have nothing to do with the stinky air.
We also found the Fountain Paint Pots. That’s where the steam comes up out of vents in the ground and mixes with mud. I told Kurt that it sounded like having a pot of marinara bubbling away on the stove. He got a giggle out of that.
We continued on through the park and found lots more bison. At one point, we found this one lone fellow standing on the side of the road, so I got out of the van to take a photo. As I walked around to look for the best shot, this gent let loose his bowels. The gross part wasn’t that he was pooping – everyone poops! But he had his own personal geyser of poop going on. That was gross.
Kurt thought I should have taken a photo, but I didn’t.
Finally we found Old Faithful. At that point, we weren’t sure if we were going to stick around until the next eruption because it wasn’t for another hour. We were running out of time on our schedule. But we managed to piddle away time in the gift shop and only had to wait about 20 minutes before the geyser erupted.
Now, Old Faithful is kind of cool. The fact that it goes off pretty regularly, and it’s proof of the geothermal activities going on beneath the surface of the earth, make it pretty fascinating. But you know, I was a little underwhelmed as I sat there and saw it go off.
The funny part was we were sitting right in front of the geyser, and the wind carried the water right to us. We ended up getting fairly wet, and that was the fun part!
We managed to find winter too, which amazed us. Heading out of the park, we ascended in elevation. The temperature dipped down to 34º at one point, and snow was coming down with some gusto. The trees had a pretty good dusting on them. It was just an odd thing to see on the second weekend of September.
I’m glad we came through when we did. Apparently a lot of the tourist services shut down next weekend. Summer’s over in Yellowstone.
The scenery change from Yellowstone to Shoshone National Park just outside was amazing. In Yellowstone, you have big hills covered in evergreen trees with lots of streams and brooks wending their ways through. In Shoshone, it becomes big hills of red rock, and the vegetation looks a lot more like plush desert, sort of what you have in Tucson. Definitely gorgeous as well, but a huge geography change in such a short distance.
At one point during today’s drive, we came through a town called Emblem. They even had a post office! The population? Only 10. I wish I’d thought to take a photo, but I was driving.
Talk about a town where everyone knows your name!!!
We also went through the Big Horn Mountains. Wow, that was high up! The maximum elevation was 10,100 feet. I drove the whole way too, which made me nervous way up at the very top. Again we found winter, with plenty of snow and sleet and ice. A few people came up right on my tail, so I pulled over and let them pass. The surprising bit was that the summit wasn’t a nice sharp point that I thought it would be. Instead it was sort of like a plateau, covered in snow and cloud cover.
The rest of the day was passed in just getting to our final destination. The weather went to crap – the temperatures stayed in the 40s, and it rained most of the day. No picnic today. Instead we had lunch at a fast food place.
Tomorrow we see Mount Rushmore!!
PS — We have had absolutely no cell phone reception all day, so if you’re trying to get a hold of us, that’s why you can’t. And as always, photos of our trip can be found HERE. Check back every night for updates.