Yellow Stone

YellowStone Day I

The past few days of Yellow Stone is brought to you by 3 Floyds Alpha King. Because when you're a Bison in Bear country you're not just king, you're Alpha King.

The trip Friday night was exhausting. What on the map appeared to be a relatively typical (for this country-wide mission) 8+ hour drive turned into an 12ish.

And it started out so nicely too. I packed the car & hit the grocery store, perfectly placed across the street for car-munchies. Noticed a fantastic farmers market on the walk back to the hotel which I swung through picking up a 1/2 pound of coffee for the hotels along the rest of the way. Hopped in the car and was off! Right into traffic. At least while heading north was able to provide the left side of my body a break from 2 back-back days of sun. Poked for a hour and when finally freed the Nissan’s oil maintenance light went off — which was expected at some point. I was just hoping it wouldn’t be at the beginning of 1 of the longer driving days up the side of mountains. Fortunately wasn’t all that far from the Wyoming Welcome Center where I was able to get Hertz on the phone to double check stuffs. It was also at this Welcome Center where I was overcome with the smell of Idaho burning. A smell that lasted for ours. I ended up at Cheyenne’s Grease Monkey’s where they knocked it out in 1/2 hour — in all setting me back about 45 mins.

Whatever I may have alluded to about desolation in my much shorter trip between St. Louis and Kansas City would be crushed — like an anvil to an ant — under the punishing I-80 and Route[?] 286. While unimaginably beautiful, otherwise indescribable magnificence in it’s vastness and hugeness it was baron empty land. So much so I began to welcome the sight of a couple of random horses or herds of Angus. Many times was the only car [visibly] on the road and coupled with the feeling of vulnerability of the drastically, continually changing landscape of rock jetting hundreds and hundreds of feet into the air and then after a small climb leveling out to flat yellow straw pastures, felt very alone and self aware in a way I’m not use to. The sort of self awareness that cues you in to the fact that if something happened random-pyscho-guy could feed you to his horses and sheep and nobody the wiser. It however would not compare to the feeling of utter alone-erabily I would experience in Yellowstone later on. Not lonely as in ‘boo-hoo I don’t have anyone to make fun of that crappy movie over a bottle of wine with’ but alone as ‘if something happens to me or my car my bones will have been picked clean by nature before anyone finds my remains’ kind of alone. I suppose I should have ‘planned’ something or had ‘called ahead’ to make reservations but what’s the fun in not knowing if you’re going to freeze to death or be plucked out or your car like a sardine by a grizzly because even though you went at the end of the summer when you thought it wouldn’t be so busy everything was booked?

The craziness Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming gave way to a few of the smaller towns out side the National Parks and was able to get my head together before the 2 hour trip to the now seemingly obviously booked Old Faithful Village. I was really surprised to see how buzzing it was at 9 o’clock. People where lining up with Faithful questions… I mean the same Faithful question over and over again. For F’s sake it shoots water up in the air every 45 min’s or so. I however had a far more important question which was ‘do you have a room’. I’m an idiot and of course they didn’t so spent another hour winding back around the top of the lake to for a room and the surprisingly lovely (and new) Moran Lodge in Canyon Village.

622+ miles
2 states
2 Hotel visits
1 camel pasture
1 confused Park Ranger (when I hander her my ID & not a pass)
1 awesome little room
1 magnificently cold morning


YellowStone Day II

Tonights recap of YellowStone Day II is brought to you by 3 Floyd’s Alpha King American Pale Ale. Because when you choose to read the [heavily redacted] road log of an unemployed Art Director you’re not just king, you’re Alpha King.

It was 21 FUCKING degrees when I woke an hour 1/2 before my alarm this morning; 6am. I rolled around a bit, got a little bit more sleep and was up at 8 when it was still in the 30’s. The temp would break around 9-930 when — as I would come to find out — most of the day-long hikes had already left. Which while a little disappointed I’m good with being as that I didn’t come prepared to dress for it. And at 930 it was only barely creeping into the 40’s. Showered, dressed and packed my camera backpack and headed out. Had breakfast [my first warm meal in 36+ hours] where I was able to observe a group of 7+ Japanese who barely spoke english but had no problem pronouncing ‘hot chocolate’. It also occurred to me how they huddled over their meals & gobbled down. I’ve curiously observed this a bazillion times in all the many Anime and Samauri movies I’ve watched over the past 30 years where it’s overwhelming made light of — played up to. I wondered if this was an life imitating or art imitating. Further,  perhaps this is residual of an ancient time when ruled by warlords everyone ate as quickly as possible not knowing if they their head could be removed at any moment. And in that same line of thinking while leaning over their plate/bowl their head — recently detached — would fall politely into their bowl/plate so as not to disturb anyone else’s meal.

Afterwards hit the Rangers center for info on where to go. [ASIDE] I came to realize real quickly how much way-finding help the park service needs. It’s a travesty that they haven’t yet realized the power of pointing people in the right direction; properly displaying times and things. Sure the Ranger was able to answer everything and pointed out a nearby trail on a map. Which she herself mentioned wasn’t marked. Well most of the maps handed out aren’t marked. Aren’t marked with street names, milage, landmarks or ‘right before/afters’. Only specific names which everyone is then required to read off of really small woodenish signs. I want a M*A*S*H styled sign pointing in numerous directions everywhere with destinations + milage. I suppose if there were cell reception out here it wouldn’t be too big a deal but can be tough for the novice. Or internationalist. Or anyone who isn’t use to a Ranger pointing at a map and saying ‘go there’.

I wondered around the ‘village’ for bit, found the unmarked trail and after 20 mins or so on it turned around remembering 1 of the first rules of hiking. Don’t hike alone. Maybe the exact first rule proceeding don’t feed bears. Here is where I mention David Palides’ books ‘Missing 411’ about the most bizarre missing persons problem the National Parks have, especially YellowStone. So that may have played a part in it. But I lived to write about it so thank you Palides for instilling that paranoia in me. After having spent some time listening to 1 of the Rangers give a talk about safety hated the idea of him reporting tomorrow ‘you know up until yesterday we haven’t had 2 people eaten by a bear in a week in… ever’.

When passing back by the registration office inquired about another night and was told they were booked. Fortunately they scored me a cheaper bungalow at Mammoth. So packed the car and proceeded to hit the nearby ‘sights’ on the way to my new bed. As the pics should illustrate there’s good reason it’s called Canyon Village and why I came to feel so fortunate I got ‘stuck’ there and not at Old Faithful. I won’t go into the Canyon itself much. The pics speak for themselves. I thought of all the beautiful things in my life that have truly moved me. Outside the human act of course. The MoMA for sure as I’m currently an NYC’r. All the different things that can touch whichever mood you’re in. The Lurve in it’s massiveness both scale and historical perspective. Being there seeing the things I’d been taught about in my college Art History classes was cool. Flying over the Rockies and Canyons. Driving through the Adirondacks. Newborns of all kinds throughout the years; both friends & family. However the massiveness, the nature was so magnificent. It was however physically exhausting. I now fully understand what people mean when referring to the altitude. It was frustrating. I run. I exercise. My legs weren’t tired but could not find the oxygen. So hiked up and down the side of the canyon a few times clicking off a 150ish, once passing an older gentlemen who I suspect was with his grandson. He stepped aside suggesting ‘I bet this is a Sunday cakewalk for you’, I replied ‘I’m usually hungover on Sundays’. He quickly responded ‘just wait until you get to be my age’ and very meaningfully replied ‘I hope I get to do this if I reach your age’. He gave a smile as his grandson looked on confused.

Anticipating there may be a couple of other things I’d stop to photograph headed out to my new room around 230-3 for the hour ride heading first west and then north. I immediately encountered a lone, grazing Bison. Afterwards it was pretty monatinous having to move through several construction zones as they are either rehabbing or installing completely new roads up the north-western side. It all looked pretty new but know not.

An hour later arrived and checked in. Again, the girl at the counter (who was super nice and would see later serving tables) pointed to and highlighted the ‘map’ she gave me but there weren’t any street names on the map. Or a North/South. Just a most ambiguous ‘You Are Here’. Finally found it, unpacked, grabbed some ice and scuttled over to the 6pm ‘Calling in The Calvary’ walk/tour, about the early founding and tribulations of YellowStone; which is to say the National Park Service as YellowStone was the first. Not simply in this nation but in the world. Badassness.

Afterwards tried to make the boardwalk hike up/around the springs which the area is famous for. On the way was held up by a 1/2 dozen Elk. I didn’t mention the Elk earlier which when looking for my bed saw all over the Western/employee side of the village. But as the sun went down they stood up to go eat grass. Earlier when looking for my room pulled to a stop sign on the employee ‘campus’ where 1 lovely Elk Lady was munching and picked her head up to see what I was. I asked her how she was doing and NO SHIT she flapped her ears at me! It was FANTASTIC. So on the walk over to the springs many other Elk, including a small male seemed to have come down from the elevations and were grazing their way through town. I would suggest they were like pigeons in NYC but pigeons pay far more attention to people. Oh and there were magpies. A beautiful fowl.

I made my way over to the springs, took a couple of pics and after having spent the late morning and most of the afternoon at the YellowStone canyon falls realized the springs didn’t seem all that important/interesting. Headed back to my bungalow to drop off my camera and have dinner. After all that Bison talk really needed to eat some. I had the Bison tacos and a local brew called Snake Bite at the Art Deco styled ’Dining Hall’. All seemed perfect. I also again sat aside a large group of Japanese. They seemed more like family than the earlier group who seemed like college friends. Lots and lots of Asians who were also very hungry to eat the Bison.

Am drained from the exercise and the sun. Thankfully the drive to Boise tomorrow isn’t so bad.  

9+ hours
2 states
1 400ish miles
1 Craters of The Moon National Monument