But let me backtrack a little.
Back to the entry gate, in fact.
As the very helpful ranger offered us the free entry, she also gave us a stack of papers, including the park's newsprint guide pamphlet, as well as a plain, unadorned sheet of standard paper with simple print, instructing us as to how to behave around the wildlife. In bold ink it said "DO NOT APPROACH THE ANIMALS."
It pointed out that bears can run three times as fast as the average human being, so you probably wouldn't beat it to your car, if it decided to come after you.
It pointed out that bison have repeatedly gored visitors who underestimated their speed and strength.
|The water looks so cooling, until you notice the steam in the background…|
It mentioned that elk and deer were also capable of doing a body permanent damage. In fact, it said "Do not even feed the ground squirrels."
So, what did we see people doing as we first rounded the bend at the top of the lake? A pair of idiots far across the field, being ushered away from where they had been trying to approach a black bear. A little farther up, a bunch of photographers in the field right near some bison, and a handful of rangers gesticulating for them to get the hell back. By the visitor's center, somebody holding out crumbs to a ground squirrel.
Congratulations, humanity, you've produced people stupider than Darwin can account for.
It's a good thing I don't feel responsible for them, or I'd have been yelling.
Instead, I was shopping.
We popped in first to use the plumbing, then to ask questions at the visitor's center, and admire a lovely, gnarled old tree
followed by a short drive across the street to the gift shop, aka the Fishing Bridge General Store. The rest of the crew bought a pile of stuff…a blanket, a hat, some buffalo jerky, souvenir drinking glasses, and other odds and ends. I, the Big Spender, bought a magnet for Mom, and some postcards.
I asked the clerk at the counter which route she recommended for us to get to Old Faithful, since, already, my friend's patience with tourism was waning. She suggested we follow the southern route, along the lake,
|One of the backwaters|
as it was slightly more direct and awesomely scenic. We decided to take her advice. I have no regrets. Not when I got a chance to keep looking at this body of water.
|The last days of May, and it was still this much frozen over, this year.|
My friend…I can't speak for her. Still, she says it was mostly worth it. Except for the horror of finding out that gasoline is nearly forty cents more per gallon inside the park than it is outside it. This she discovered at the visitor center at Old Faithful, while she and the boys filled in the roughly fifty minutes before the next eruption of the geyser by filling the tank.
She had a little trouble not bringing up the waste of all that money from having not gotten filled up in Cody when she told the boys to. She talked about it pretty much steadily, all the way from the walkway around the geyser back to the truck, and then that particular issue came back up repeatedly for the next two weeks.
On the positive side of things, though, the drive to and beyond Old Faithful
|They were there|
|Biffalo, buffalo bisons|
The scenery was gorgeous, and, I imagine that a couple of years ago, it was lush and green
at every turn, but there was still a lot of evidence of
last year's big fire.
The drive north from Old Faithful, and then Madison and beyond, goes gradually from a cozy, nestled drive lined by trees and occasional bears doing what they do in the woods, to a suspended roadway daring you to drive recklessly faster than 10 miles per hour, lest you drop the twenty thousand leagues to the river at the canyon bottom, to, finally, the twisting loop to get you from the top of the Mammoth Hot Springs to the village below, where we were expecting to spend our night.
Somewhere in the middle of the worst of it, Z decided to start pushing his aunt's buttons while she drove, talking about how drunk he wanted to get "right away tonight when we get to the campground". This pretty much guaranteed that (a) he wasn't going to get what he wanted any time soon, and (b) neither was anybody else. We were not going to stop at any of the scenic pull-outs to take pictures or stretch our cramping legs. Not that I really wanted to dangle my legs over the side of a cliff, or stand and inhale the steam of a sulfurous stack of hot springs' formations, but it would have been nice to document some of the awesome vistas for myself.
Ah, well. At least I saw Mammoth Hot Springs from their base.
The campground was just a half mile or so beyond the edge of the village, around a bend and blocked from view by a lovely high hill. As we pulled up to the entry, there was a short line of cars, which, at first, made us all a little anxious, but my friend got out, walked up to the office, and, after a couple of minutes, came back smiling.
Not only did they have a campsite we could occupy for the night, but it was really close to the restroom facilities, it had running water (no shower, though), and it was half price for disabled veterans. Our total savings on fees for visiting the park would end up almost making up the difference in the cost of a tank of gas. But that still didn't stop the "I told you so."
Ah, well. The boys and my friend unloaded the camp chairs, the coolers, and whatever else we needed for the night. Then, while they pitched the tents and put all the loose tasty bear temptations (other than my inconveniently, untimely messy self) into the truck cab, I went for a ride on my bicycle, just as the sun disappeared behind the hill.
A few hours later, the sun went down. We had had a fine supper (I cooked. I'm good at that, especially when I can do it while bicycling across Cornwall) of all those varieties of hamburger patties and hot dogs they'd bought at the WalMart in Cody, cooked over a briquet-and-wood fire, and I was exhausted. My friend took a nap, then did some homework. I packed it in for the night around 8:30, long before dark, and long before anybody else in our party was even close to nodding off. I didn't expect to sleep straight through the night, due to said bodily issue, but I was determined to get the as much as I could, in whatever way I could. I needed the rest, since I'd had a short, none-too-restful night in Cody.
Besides, the next day was going to be a long one.