Thursday, August 29, 2013

Traveling Wyoming

"Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose, won't you let me go down in my dreams."

Yellowstone National Park was absolutely breathtaking.

I said to Neil, it's the most beautiful place I've been in my whole life.

For a park that gets something like 3.5 million visitors each year, it had none of the crowds or traffic you might expect and dread. I suppose 3,468.4 square miles give you some room to spread out. The park is bigger than Rhode Island. And Delaware.

We took something like 250 photos.

I'll do a quick recap of the trip.

We flew into Jackson Hole, Wyoming, about dinnertime. Yellowstone is remote and any way you slice it you are going to spend a day getting there from here. We had our traditional untraditional pizza at a restaurant called Calico and headed for the park.

We drove through Grand Teton National Park, from south to north en route, entering Yellowstone from the south (there are five entrances to the park). Much of the park is back country, there are 310 miles of paved road total, with the central portion configured in a Figure 8, and we covered all of it, some more than once and not by plan.

We headed for Canyon Lodge for our first two nights, but at the last 16 mile leg the road was closed due to fire. Lightning fires are a constant in the Park. We had to backtrack around the lower loop, an 80-mile course correction. The halfway point found us at the Old Faithful resort area, where we opted to stop for a bathroom break and cold beverage.

Which is why, on our first night in the park, we got to see the Old Faithful geyser erupt at about 11 p.m. It was not lighted up. as you might expect, but the desk clerk said "your eyes will adjust" and we even had a full moon. It was eerie and impressive and cheered Neil up a lot.

We got to our cabin close to midnight. Finding it in the dark was fun.

We'd come to the park without much of a plan. At the entrance gate to every national park, you get a map and a park newsletter that usually summarizes the best hikes. Yellowstone is so big though. So our first stop was the Canyon visitor center, where we got some recommendations for hikes and activities.

Ironically, the hike recommended as the best in the park, to the Washburn Hot Springs - and "not nearly as strenuous as the description" - was the one we never got to take. Reason to return, not that I need one.

We started by exploring the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, driving first to Artists Point and then taking a gentle hike from Lower Falls to Upper Falls and back. We got a glimpse of a female elk too.

After that we decided to do the north loop, so we headed west and then north to Mammoth Hot Springs. Highlights were climbing the terraces and our first double scoop of Huckleberry Ice Cream.

We then continued east and stopped to hike to Wraith Falls. Then on to Tower-Roosevelt, where we sat on the porch of the lodge while it rained a bit, and I made a mental note that on our next trip we'd return there for a trail ride.

Back at Canyon Lodge, the rain had driven more people inside than we'd yet seen in one place. Burgers for dinner, beef for Neil, salmon for me, then a ranger talk about owls at the visitor center before snugging back down in our cabin for the night.

We spend the next day at Upper and Lower Geyser Basin. We saw Old Faithful erupt in daylight and then took the boardwalks out along the Firehole River. There are about 300 geysers in Yellowstone. Old Faithful is the most regular but by no means the most spectacular.

It was our lucky day. We came up on Grand Geyser. The pool was full and the benches were lined with people, many who'd been waiting for more than 3 hours. We were there for maybe 15 minutes when Grand Geyser gushed.

The bison passing behind us was singularly unimpressed though.

Bison own the place really. Including the roads. If they feel like it.

From there we went on to Daisy Geyser. I'd seen a sign at the visitor center that Daisy was predicted to erupt at 4:15 but when we got there I thought maybe I had the day wrong. There were no people waiting.

We were right on time and decided to give it 15 minutes. We didn't have to wait that long. Here is a 2 minute recording. As a special bonus, you get to hear me talking.

We also got to see Castle Geyser erupting, complete with rainbows.

And then it was time to watch Old Faithful blow off steam (and water) one last time and head for the Lake Hotel for our last two nights. The hotel is one of the very few edifices along the 136 square mile lake, with its 110 miles of pristine shoreline.

There's more to this story and I'll have part two for you soon.

A dozen years ago, I had no idea how happy I would be today.

After Marty wrote to me in May 2001, we exchanged excited correspondence for a week. We arranged to meet and the inauspicious way our first date began could have been a portent for our whole relationship.

The city had just been hit hard by Tropical Storm Alicia. Land lines were down and cell circuits were jammed. But we had made a plan, and my hair and nails were done. I wore a black sundress and I had glitter on my cheeks.

Unfortunately, I'd suggested we meet at an Italian restaurant which, unbeknownst to me, had closed. A sushi place had taken over the building, so you might say it had disappeared without a trace.

With normal cell service, this would not have been a problem. As it was, I drove around the area, stopping in at the Starbucks where we'd first considered meeting, before deciding we had enough to talk about that dinner only made sense.

Then I peeked in at the Chipotle next door, where the manager graciously let me use the office computer to see if Marty had sent me an email. He had not.

So I drove in circles for a while longer, until I was finally able to check my cell phone voice mail. Marty had left a message. He was waiting at the other local Italian restaurant.

I drove there and parked. I walked toward the entrance and I saw him sitting on a bench outside. He saw me, and rose, to a dizzying height of six foot two, and smiled. I looked up, way up, and smiled back.

A happy ending once again appeared plausible if not destined.

It was my very first Internet dating service date.

The world was my oyster.

"There is a young cowboy, he lives on the range
His horse and his cattle are his only companions
He works in the saddle and he sleeps in the canyons
Waiting for summer, his pastures to change

Goodnight you moonlight ladies, rock-a-bye sweet baby James
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose, won't you let me go down in my dreams
And rock-a-bye sweet baby James.

There's a song that they sing when they take to the highway
A song that they sing when they take to the sea
A song that they sing of their home in the sky
Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep
But singing works just fine for me

So, goodnight you moonlight ladies, rock-a-bye sweet baby James
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose, won't you let me go down in my dreams
And rock-a-bye sweet baby James."

(James Taylor)

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