National Parks: Yellowstone

On Lill’s continued quest to visit all 50 states and make the most out of her National Park Pass, she came out West again, this time to visit Wyoming, Yellowstone and the Tetons.  It was October and there was a brief discussion about camping that was quickly vetoed by the fact that it was already below freezing at night in Missoula.  At the suggestion of one of my co-workers, we stayed at Chico Hot Springs, instead.  Chico is a little out of the way from Yellowstone, but it ended up being kind of nice to have a hot pool to soak in and a warm bed to sleep in after a day of Fall hiking.

On our first day, Lill and I had a very serious conversation about bears.  I have never actually seen a bear in the wild here, and I wasn’t really stoked about the idea of potentially running into a hungry, sleepy one while we were hiking.  Lill had a bell, but as A likes to say, the only thing bells do for bears is make their poop jingle on the way out.  I hadn’t invested in any bear spray because Lill said she would pack some, but it turns out she wasn’t allowed to bring it on the plane, even in her checked luggage.  Lill was kind of miffed about this, and she wasn’t in the mood to pay for bear spray again.  Cleverly, she thought to ask one of the rangers if they had bear spray they wouldn’t mind giving us, pointing out that other people who flew in to visit wouldn’t be able to take their bear spray home with them.  The first ranger we talked to was a little snarky and condescending about the whole thing and basically told us no way.  But Lill was determined and kept asking around until she found a ranger who gave us a can of spray!  Feeling invigorated and accomplished, we hit the road to see the sights.

Our first stop was the Mammoth Hot Springs area, where we did a short, easy 5 mile hike and checked out the hot springs terraces.  My aunt and uncle had been to Yellowstone earlier that year and showed me some pictures of its remarkable geology, but even so, seeing it in person was pretty impressive.  I also have a weird penchant for the smell of sulfur.  I think it’s because I grew up near (and often took kids on tours as a camp counselor) marshland in the Bay Area and so that rotten egg smell kind of reminds me of home.

The next day, we drove out to Old Faithful, stopping along the way to check out other geysers and hot springs (including Beryl, which is one of the hottest springs in Yellowstone).  Thankfully, we got to Old Faithful just in time – we only had to wait around 15 minutes or so before it erupted.  There’s a good video of it in the National Parks album.  On our drive, we also got to see a lot of elk and deer and even a bison herd.  We saw a few coyotes and other small mammals and birds.  We finished off our day by doing a short, but more strenuous hike to the top of a mountain to take in the view one last time before heading out for the day.

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