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Published: August 27th 2010
On August 20, we spent another hour at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, and then drove to Yellowstone through the East Entrance. We parked at the Fishing Bridge RV campground, then walked over to the visitor center and strolled along Yellowstone Lake. Later we drove some south along the Lake.
Next day, we set out to drive the northern loop. So many buffalo! Herds of a hundred or so, strolling along or in the road. We viewed the Lower Falls from both afar and then just above. We saw many geysers, at Mammoth Hot Springs and then at Geyser Basin. Almost home, we saw our bear (the only one we saw in the park). He meandered along a field, swam across the river, clambered up the riverbank, sauntered across the road (dozens of cars parked on either side of his route, cameras snapping), and continued on through the field.
On Sunday, we were rather lazy. But breakfast, sitting at the massive front window of the Lake Lodge, was a lovely experience. In the afternoon, we took our beach chairs and sat by the lake.
On Monday, we drove the southern loop. It was overcast and very cool - just about the first time we've had a cool afternoon on this trip! Our first stop was Old Faithful, where we enjoyed coffees and a sweet roll. OF dutifully entertained us. Then we saw geysers and more geysers, some burbling and sputtering mud, some lovely deep turquoise pools. And, of course, they all smelled pungently like sulphur.
Tuesday, we drove south to Grand Teton NP. Along the way, we encountered the biggest traffic jam yet, which we later learned was caused by a bear sighting. We parked at Grand Teton Park RV, which is several miles east of the park, and we lazed for the rest of the day.
On Wednesday, we followed a route through the glories of Grand Teton NP. Wonderful lodges, lakes, but above all (literally) the spectacular peaks of the Range. We had so far seen hundreds of buffalo, one bear, dozens of elks, a bull moose, but John still craved to see antelopes. Finally, we saw herds of them.
Thursday, we packed up to head toward Jackson. En route, we took a boat across Jenny Lake and climbed to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, and then hiked back around the lake to our car. The RV Park in Jackson is very close to town but most importantly, right across the street from the library so we can access our internet - for days, we had been unable to. We did groceries in an elegant grocery store, then went into town for a beer at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and a hamburger at the Cadillac Restaurant. Then we sat in the park and watched people stroll and strut by.
(A correction from Cody: On further reading, it is likely that the bar at the Irma Hotel was purchased by Buffalo Bill somewhere in France, not a gift from Queen Victoria as legend has it.)
It is so wonderful to be able to show our Golden Age Pass (available at age 62 for $10) at the entrance to a National Park, and then proceed for free.
There were lots of tents at some campgrounds in Yellowstone, but only hard-sided RV's are allowed at Fishing Bridge. We didn't have an electric hookup, and we finally figured out how we could make coffee by boiling water on the gas stove and then steeping the grounds in the electric coffee maker. The lots were very narrow, and for the first time, our lot did not even have a picnic table. Showers down near the entrance were available for $3.25, so we cheapskates used our water heater and our own shower, Navy-shower style. Least appealing, though, was somewhat of a claustrophobic feeling because we could not see the big sky we had gotten to love so much.
The most moving aspect of Yellowstone, for me, was watching the people. We heard as many people speaking foreign languages as we did American (I'm never sure how to categorize Australian :-) Many families had little children with them - there were little folks with notebooks where they were recording their observations; many kids were snapping photos as much as their parents; one little fellow with a big cowboy hat and vest, tramping along, utterly enchanted me. To see hundreds of people, many of them very sophisticated travelers, sitting on the benches to wait for Old Faithful to erupt, somehow reinforced the fact that our national parks are great treasures, and they are indeed valued. To see dozens of cars pulled off the road to watch an animal, people scurrying along with their cameras at the ready, sharing relevant information, with genuine excitement, was really touching. I had heard/read for years about the problems of traffic jams, e.g. in Yellowstone, but after experiencing them, they now seem much more joyful than annoying to me.
There was an article this week in USA Today about the grizzlies in Yellowstone getting hungry this winter because of the white pine bark beetle, which is wiping out their supply of white pinecones. The effects of one change in nature can be so large; the two bear maulings/killings of humans this summer are suspected to be related to their impending hunger. Reintroducing the wolves in Yellowstone might be partly why the antelope population has declined; John recalls that when he worked in Wyoming 40 years ago, antelopes seemed to be ubiquitous along the highway fences.
John allowed us to buy him a Stetson cowboy-type hat!!!!! He had pooh-poohed trying any on, but finally did, and I was captivated by just the second one he tried. It's "mushroom" color.
By the way, we are open to votes on what to call our RV. We had named it Charley, an abbreviation for the retirement community where John's mom had lived, and since an RV can be sort of a retirement home, Travels with Charley seemed to be a good pun. But Harvey the RV has suddenly captured our enthusiasm. What do you think?
During our drive through the Grand Teton NP, we ended up in a tiny, rather out of the way, spot on the map named Kelly, where we stopped for cold drinks. Lo and behold, the first car with NH plates we'd seen since mid-July was parked there. The owner, Adam, recently relocated out this way. Nice guy. He still had his'EZPass proudly displayed on his windshield by the mirror???.
I met the most wonderful man when we climbed to Inspiration Point. The very top of the path was just too narrow for me to tackle, so I waited for John to go up and back. After awhile, I noticed that a man was also hanging around, not going up or down, and we started talking. He has the same height freaked-outness that I have! We shared stories of our terrors! And, he has been a pilot!!!! But being completely in control does seem to help. Anyway, I am forever grateful to have met the guy.
Not being able to get online has become a major problem. Dear John the engineer spends hours patiently trying to connect, to no avail. Today, Friday, he finally was able to take our computer to a guy at a Staples, who said there's nothing wrong with it! Apparently, we have been falling for the advertisements for campgrounds that say they have free wifi at the sites. BUT the wifi is not very strong. And when a lot of people go online, probably including people who are downloading movies, it gets overstressed. Thank goodness the signal is strong at the library here in Jackson, so he is on our computer and I am on one of theirs. I don't know if we should bother to search for campgrounds that have "free wifi" any longer...
Jackson really is a special town. A lovely town square midtown, surrounded by lots of restaurants, galleries, and upscale shoppes. Ski slopes seem to come right down into town! No Walmart here, but there is a Kmart, but out on the perimeter of town, not the fancy part. John doesn't remember that there were so many shops on the side streets, but it would surely be possible to spend dozens of hours browsing in this town.
We will leave Jackson tomorrow and head to an area south of here in Wyoming where John did work for a while forty-some years ago. He is curious to see how things have evolved there.
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