DAY 7: As usual hit the road real early after sadly packing up my little Colter Bay cabin, and now off to Yellowstone. Today was one of those days that I was exhausted and not feeling well, and it affected my mood. Was not getting into Yellowstone at all as I drove into the south entrance, even though I knew I was entering one of the truly magical places on my trip. That would all change, however, and eventually become one of the best days of the entire journey.
The weather was strange - a mix of cloudy, drizzly, sunshine and blue sky, and at any given moment you didn't know what to expect. I stopped at the West Thumb Geyser Basin, which seems to get mixed reviews on TA. I actually thought it was a very good introduction to the park - sort of whets your appetitie for what's to come - and the setting with Yellowstone Lake in the background is pretty cool. However, I left just in time as two tour buses pulled up and unloaded hoardes of people onto the boardwalk ... couldn't believe all the tour buses I saw in Yellowstone and Utah.
Anyway, stopped at Grant Village and got some hot water for my green tea at the restaurant, which gave me a lift. Was nice of all these park restaurants to do this for me, though it helped that I always did this so early that these places were never crowded yet.
So even though I was staying the first two nights at Lake Lodge cabins and the third night at Old Faithful cabins, I had decided a while back to do the Upper Geyser Basin on this first day. The thinking was that I wanted to dedicate the second day to Hayden Valley and Canyon by getting there at the crack of dawn from Lake, and also I thought I could get an introduction to the geysers on the first day and then hit some things I missed when I returned to the area on that final day.
Hit some waterfalls as I drove along - Lewis Falls, Kepler Cascades, ect. Not star attractions but very pretty falls nonetheless.
The sun broke out as I got close to Old Faithful and I saw my first bison in the park - three of them crossing the road by the overpass at the OF interchange. I parked, got my bearings, packed some food and my GoPro/tripod and headed off to the Visitor Center to get eruption times (thanks Pam!). Did the boardwalks and loved this area. It is an absolute assault on the senses with strange sights, sounds and smells going on all around you, with aqua-blue pools, steaming vents, bubbling water and geysers spitting up hot water. There is one geyser you see early on - and I can't remember the name (help anyone?) - that puts on quite a lengthy show. It would shoot about 10 to 20 feet and go on and on and on. Loved it.
But that was just a warm-up for my first big-time geyser - Daisy. Showed up just in time and got a seat to watch this baby go off. Then headed over to Grand, which was predicted to go off fairly soon, and got me a front-row seat with my GoPro. Got the camera set up, ate lunch, talked to people and did some reading, and after about on hour or so - with the bleachers now packed - it blew almost right in the middle of the prediction range. People I was talking with on the bleachers leading up to the eruption said they are Yellowstone regulars and that this was their favorite geyser, and that I was in for a treat. It indeed was quite a show - one of those magical moments of the entire trip - and I set up the GoPro to capture it all from a dead-on vantage point.
I could have gotten REALLY lucky and then caught Beehive's eruption, which was scheduled for an hour or two after Grand, but I considered myself fortunate enough and wanted to see Grand Prismatic Spring while the sun was still at a good angle in the afternoon, so I took off for the Fairy Falls Trailhead.
It was fairly quiet here and - like at the Tetons - was very nervous about hiking alone because of bears, so I waited and hooked up with a Kenyan man now living in Portland, OR. We had a really good time together, chatting away about our adventures (he had just come from Glacier, where he saw lots of grizzlies), and then scrambling our way up the hillside to the classic view of Grand Prismatic. What an unbelievable sight. It does not look real - like something from another planet, and so my new friend Mack and I spent quite a while up there getting a ton of photos. It's hard work getting up that hill, though, and even harder scrambling back down.
Afterward, I changed out of my dust and dirst-filled clothes and headed off to Firehole Lake Drive, which was more eye candy, especially the surprise I got at White Dome Geyser. Another other-worldly looking sight, I was unaware it was an active geyser - until I got in my car to pull away and the thing went off! Very cool.
The detaiuls of this afternoon are a little bit fuzzy right now (unfortunately, I didn't take notes, and it's been six weeks), but I remember after Firehole Lake Drive I stopped and had an early picnic dinner at a picnic area on the river (gourmet meal of tuna fish sandwich and raw veggies ... lol), and then made my way up to Norris Junction and over toward Canyon en route to Lake. The smell of smoke was very strong here, as the Cygnet Fire was still burning at the time.
Got to Canyon junction and - completely on a whim, as I had planned to dedicate the next day to Canyon - I decided to check out North Rim Drive and get a sneak peak at one of the top three sights I was most excited to see on this whole trip.
The canyon truly is remarkably beautiful, and with the sun setting, I lierally had the whole place to myself. Took a walk down to the Brink of the Lower Falls and was the only person there. The only drawback was the poor lighting for photos at this time, but that was OK since I'd be back the next day.
It was starting to get dark so I left to avoid driving to Lake in the dark, which might have happened had I not pulled off to see what was happening where a bunch of cars had pulled off in hayden Valley. A huge bull elk was putting the moves on two females, which was far away but viewed up=close through those great binoculars I had. Was truly like watching a nature documentary, with the bull methodically stalking the two females and then approaching them from time to time - eventually run after them and chasing them off.
Once this show was over I headed back toward Lake and now it was basically dark - and yes, I nearly had my first accident with wildlife when a herd of bison suddenly appeared in the road at one point. It was all I could do to slam my brakes on and avoid hitting one of them. A bit further ahead, another herd in the road caused a big jam that was eventually broken up by a park ranger who shooed the bison off with his vehicle and that loud horn they use.
Folks, the DEs on here don't repeat it for nothing - Don't drive at night!!! Adhering to this advice will save you a very bad experience for both yourself and a wild animal in the park. As some of you will read later on in my road trip report, this happened two more times to me - and I did not get so lucky on the third occurrence.
Got to Lake and checked into my cabin - another cute little getaway that I loved - no TV, radio, ect. Just me and nature. And it was very quiet here. My only complaint was the horrible condition of the dirt road that runs alongside the Lake Lodge and up to the cabins. The word "rough" would be an understatement.
The lodge, on the other hand, was beaut iful, and I looked forward to the next night when I'd have more time and energy to enjoy a beer or two there while taking in the rustic atmosphere.
For now, though, it was time to hit the sack.