From California to the U.K. in 30 days - Day 3 & 4 (Twin Falls to Yellowstone)


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Published: July 18th 2017
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First things first, yes I am combining 2 days into one! I've been writing each blog the following day, but I'm finding it hard to keep track as there is so much to take in. I was surprised to figure out that it was just yesterday that we left Twin Falls, it feels like that was several days ago. So in part for the sake of writing while the recollections are fresh, and in part because the drive across Idaho was a little blah (no offense Idahoans, you grow some fantastic potatoes), you are getting 2 days combined into one. My intention will be to write up each day in the evening from now on.

Ok so the drive from Twin Falls was uneventful. Impressed by the 80mph speed limits on the interstate, California should take some notes. We headed NE on 20 and then the Tetons appeared like a mirage in the East. Farmland suddenly ends where significant pine covered hills begin and up we go. 20 is a steady climb and almost immediately becomes very beautiful. Being mountainous it reminds me of the Sierras, but there are subtle differences. It seems that this area has more meadows interspersed into the forest and somehow it seems less managed, more natural. We continue to climb and with the increase in elevation, the wow factor also increases. Lush alpine meadows, crystal clear streams and massive peaks, some still with snow patches. I'm watching for the Montana sign and here it comes. Shortly after we pull into West Yellowstone.

West Yellowstone is charming. It is entirely dedicated to tourism, but has somehow avoided becoming too "kitchy" as many tourist towns are wont to do. It is stuffed with restaurants, small hotels and ATV rentals. Tempted by the latter, but they only rent the four seaters for an entire day and we aren't sure the kids have the stamina for that. We find our hotel which is called Tao's Yellowstone Inn. The room is very nice, but the setup is odd. There are 2 separate buildings with 8 rooms apiece and they face each other across a lawn. It somehow feels incomplete as there is no lobby or amenities. Upon speaking with the proprietor it turns out that it is indeed incomplete. There are plans for connecting buildings and a lobby, but a water shortage has put the brakes on the project. Nonetheless it is nice now, and should be excellent when finished. We are early enough to take a jaunt into the park. We purchase our annual pass at the entrance (planning to get a lot of mileage out of that baby) and enter. It's nothing short of spectacular and so pristine. I believe the park service are the unsung heroes of the U.S. They manage these incredible resources and somehow manage to walk that tightrope between protecting the land, while still making it accessible to the public. We follow the Madison river through the valley, crystal clear waters abutted by alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers, and then spectacular rugged peaks rising up on each side. We hook a right towards Old Faithful. We stop first at Artists Paintpots after seeing steam and aqua marine pools from the road. Incredible! Boiling mud, boiling water the color of Caribbean seas and some geysers that oblige us with a pretty good show as we navigate the raised boardwalks. I wish the kids were more interested and I remember trips when we were young and the frustration of my parents - "look at the damn view, we drove all the way across France to see this canyon"! Still, we manage to keep them from any 3rd degree burns so I'll chalk that up to a success.

Next on to Old Faithful, I mean it has to be done. We arrive just in time and are shocked at the size of the crowd. There must have been close to 500 people lining the benches and boardwalks. I wondered if the old guy might be suffering from a bit of performance anxiety as we had several false starts. Entertaining to see the cameras and phones raise and then the collective awwww of the crowd as it sputters out. But true to it's name, the geyser delivered and how! It's remarkable to think how long it has been performing the same ritual, long before humans took notice. I wonder if it will outlast us?

We call it a night and head back into town. Dinner is at the Serenity Bistro. It's alright, my steak is a little tough and for some reason the inside of the restaurant is literally like a sauna. Off to bed as I have an important Skype interview in the morning (my 4th and hopefully final for a U.K. job).

After the interview (it felt good by the way and thank you for asking, fingers crossed we should have more news this week), we head back into the park. There is essentially a loop that mirrors the approximate outline of the caldera. By the way, I've seen some good documentaries on this super volcano and we're basically all buggered when it goes off. Most of the Western U.S. should be annihilated in the initial blast, but the rest of the world will suffer from the lack of sunlight. Good news is it's only about 50,000 years overdue! We traversed the entire loop. It's absolutely breathtaking as you will hopefully see from some of the attached pictures. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone looks like something created for a James Cameron movie. If you asked someone to create the most spectacular canyon and waterfall imaginable, this would be what they come up with. We also pass Yellowstone Lake which is absolutely gigantic "Look at the ocean" exclaims AJ. We stop in at West Thumb Basin and marvel at yet more fumeroles, pools and mud pots. Traffic stops on the way out which inevitably means wildlife. A gigantic moose (nice rack) munches solemnly at the side of the road, disinterested in the chaos and excitement it causes in it's human counterparts.

Our final destination for the day is the Grand Prismatic Spring. An enormous heated pool (think small lake) but the colors! Azure blue, Caribbean green sea, burnt umber, rust red and the yellows of the Sulfur. It's quite a canvas and hard to believe nature produced it. Dinner tonight was quick and easy as we are all pretty beat. We have one more day for Yellowstone tomorrow and are looking forward to it. It's easy to see why it was designated as the first National Park. Well deserved!


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