Friday, March 4, 2011

Weekend in Yellowstone, Part 2

This post is a little overdue.

Remember when Justin and I spent a weekend in Yellowstone and had our first night without Jocelyn and I dropped the digital camera and broke it? Remember how we bought a disposable film camera and I promised to finish blogging about our trip when I got the film developed?

The time has come. Back to our story...

After Justin and Lara enjoyed a relaxing detour in the sun drenched meadows near Wraith Falls, Lara lost a battle with a piece of Velcro and dropped their digital camera on the rocky path.

With their stomachs sinking at the loss of their beloved camera, they trudged back to the car. Lara tried digital CPR, but nothing revived it. Undeterred, they continued on to the town of Mammoth where they would spend the night.

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel

Frantically, Lara dashed into every gift shop the eye could see looking for a disposable digital camera. She had seen them before at countless superstores. Alas, the appeal of West Yellowstone is that it represents a simpler time. And thus it was - there were not disposable digital cameras for sale. Only film cameras. They would have to get used to not having a zoom lens, having a limit of 24 photographs, and not having the instant gratification of playing back pictures.

After selecting one with a flash, Justin and Lara travelled to the mysterious Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces.

Lara posing in front of Liberty Cap - once a geyser

Such alien beauty. Such crystalline treasures. It felt like being in Kal-El's temple of solitude. The disposable camera even obtained a decent shot or two. Miles of hiking on wooden stairways and boardwalks perched inches above steaming water brought them to magical formations with names like Cleopatra's Terrace, Minerva Terrace, and the grate Jupiter Terrace.

Lara overlooking Jupiter Terrace

A breathtaking view of Jupiter Terrace

With rubbery legs, Justin and Lara made their way back down the terraces and nourished themselves at a fabulous restaurant. As the shadows grew longer and twilight made its way into the park, Lara lamented that they had not seen any elk. This was one of the reasons why they had come. It was the season of the rut. Mating season. Bull elk would bugle for the cows and often fight each other for glory. Perhaps it was the unseasonably warm autumn, but the park that was usually teeming with elk this time of year was inexplicably void of wildlife.

Lara saw a similar sight when she was last in Mammoth in early October - elk literally everywhere. No such luck this time.

Lara thought of the Madison Valley - a swampland near the west entrance. The Madison herd of elk frequented these open lands often and Lara thought they would definitely see elk there. They paid their tab and dashed into the car, trying to beat the dying light of the day. Before long, Lara realized they were on a fool's errand. It was too dark to see anything. They turned back.

They enjoyed a quiet evening of reading in their quaint hotel room. No televisions. No internet WiFi. No telephones. Just each other taking turns reading Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. This hotel was built in 1891 with renovations taking place every twenty years or so. Some relics of the past included button light switches that took a little while to figure out (and soaps too cute to use), windows with sashes that actually opened to the crisp fall air, and an old fashioned claw-foot tub.

 Lara awoke early the next morning, prepared to elk invading the quaint town of Mammoth. No. Not a single one. They ate a lovely breakfast and continued their adventures. They stopped at Roaring Mountain where they could hear the mountain growl as if a ferocious dragon lived within.

Roaring Mountain

With great joy, they met up with Grandma and Grandpa at Old Faithful Geyser and were reunited with their princess. She was very well-behaved for her grandparents. It was hard to tell who had more fun.

Old Faithful Geyser just getting started

Their last stop brought them to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with sweeping vistas of the glorious waterfalls and forests.

The little family lingered long enough in the park so that they exited at Madison Valley right at dusk. Their patience payed off. On the road, Lara had to slow down to let a cow pass by.

Not far from this cow was a pull out crowded with cars. Lara pulled over knowing that that many cars could mean only one thing - elk. Just off the shoulder of the road, a large bull held his majestic head high and bugled. A returned cry came from behind and the cow they had just passed on the road stampeded through the congestion of cars and startled onlookers. Justin and Lara watched for thirty minutes as the bull gathered his harem of about five cows and herded them across the river and into the deepening night. What an experience.

Pictures at night with a disposable camera aren't great. But can you make out the horizontal reflective strip of the river on the right, halfway down the picture? Can you see the two figures standing near the water's edge - one wearing dark colors and one wearing light colors? Then there is a mass of blackness and another figure wearing white toward the left. In that mass of blackness were about six elk. The bull kept coming closer and closer to the people, even trapping a family in the dead branches of a fallen tree.

As they say, this is God's country.

Justin and Lara had such a magnificent time, they vowed to make it an annual tradition.

The end.

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