Growing up, my family would spend a couple of weeks every few years visiting Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. I wish I had the time on this trip to do that, but I have to get moving east. I did the highlights of Yellowstone in a day, and it wasn’t nearly enough time.
Today took me up through Grand Teton National Park, through parts of Yellowstone, and out to Cody, Wyoming. It was a very special and spectacular day. Special, because I saw things that I haven’t seen since I was in my teens. Spectacular, due to the amazing, unseasonal weather. I started before sunrise, in 16 degree temperatures. It warmed rapidly, and by the time I got to Old Faithful it was around 60 degrees and sunny.
I missed the moment of sunrise on the Grand Tetons. I was turned the other way, photographing a group of 5 moose alongside the road. It was so cool.
Alongside my digital cameras, I’m going old school on this trip with a medium format film camera. I’m reminding myself of how a photo is supposed to be made, with thought, purpose, patience and more skill than pointing your cell phone requires. And you only have 12 exposures per roll of film, so you have to make them count.
The red canoe that I’m carrying back to North Carolina still has its national park permit stickers from 1973, ’74 and ‘75. The ranger at the south entrance of Yellowstone was amazed by that. Then he wanted to make sure it wasn’t going in the water today, because I’d have to pay to update the stickers a bit. I did have to get the boat inspected for invasive species, which was funny as the boat hasn’t been in the water in 20+ years.
My timing at Old Faithful was perfect. It erupted less than 5 minutes after I arrived. After a few days of driving, I really needed to get some exercise, so I walked a 4-mile loop around the geyser basin, and caught 2 more geysers erupting. By the way, Old Faithful is at about 7,400 feet above sea level. I’ll remember that next time I decide to take a hike there. I needed more oxygen, but I made up for yesterday’s waffles.
Much of what park rangers have to do is protect stupid people from themselves. I watched as someone walked to within 20 feet of a bison, turn his back to it, and take a selfie. At least if something went wrong, the last photo would have been amazing.
It’s a great time to be in the parks because the watchable wildlife seemed to outnumber the few tourists. All the services, except the visitors’ centers, were closed. Besides the aforementioned moose and hundreds of bison, I also saw elk and completed the day with a grizzly bear sighting. A grizzly is the holy grail of Yellowstone wildlife watching.
Alas, too much to see, and too little time. I had to head out of the park via a route that took me through an area that was ravaged by the fires of 1995. The comeback has new evergreens growing up through the burned, yet standing, timber.
The road from the east entrance of the park to Cody, Wyoming is the scariest road I’ve ever driven. In the 70 miles of highway, there were over 50 deer crossing the road or standing on the shoulder. And those were just the ones I saw. The speed limit was 65, I was doing 40, and that was still white knuckle all the way.
Cumulative MPG in the Sorento has bounced back up after a day of driving 45 mph through the parks. The seat heaters were essential this morning, quick to warm and toasty. By afternoon, it was warm enough that I was using the front seat ventilators which filter cool air through the seat surface. Xenon headlights are only available on the top of the line Sorento, and I sorely wished I had them on the drive tonight.