Cross Country Road Trip, Part 2
A couple of posts ago I wrote about the first leg of a Cross Country Road Trip - Part 1 that took my wife and I from Washington DC to Rapid City, South Dakota. Now for the second half. We got an early start the morning after our wonderful visit to Mount Rushmore National Memorial with the goal of getting to Yellowstone National Park and hopefully get a room in one of the park lodges.
We took a short side trip off of Interstate 90 to visit Devils Tower National Monument. As we approached the tower, I could see a few similar formations off in the distance, but none as fully exposed as the Devils Tower – nothing a few million years won't take care of.
Here is a bit of tower trivia that we found hilarious:
As a publicity stunt, George Hopkins parachuted onto Devils Tower on October 1, 1941. He was stranded for six days before he could be rescued.
Driving through the Monument, we had to, just had to, stop at "Prairie Dog Town" to watch the cute critters run around, eat a bit, sit up, look around to see what everyone else is doing and…repeat.
After our visit to Devils Tower, we hit the road for the journey across Wyoming to the eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park, a little outside of Cody, Wyoming. We'd been calling the hotel reservation service from our car whenever we could get service to see if there was chance of getting a room for the night in any of the park lodges. Their answer was, once in a blue moon someone might cancel, but otherwise, they were booked solid several months in advance. They recommended checking at a lodge reservation desk when we actually arrived in the park.
We drove up to the Lake Lodge late in the afternoon, and to our surprise and the desk clerk's shock, there was one room left in the entire park – someone had cancelled at the last minute. We booked it and managed to get one the next night too. Wow, it was a dream come true for me, two nights inside Yellowstone park.
Later that evening, happily sitting outside on the wide plank porch of the Lake Lodge with a chilled glass of wine and watching the bison amble by, the lady sitting next to us mentioned how lucky we all were to be in the park when it was a full moon – actually, she said, tonight would be a blue moon, the second full moon of the month.
I got up early the next morning to go over to the "West Thumb Geyser Basin" which sits right on the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake. There was only one other car in the parking lot and that turned out to be some fellow photographers, because, of course, morning light is some of the best light for this kind of photography. After enjoying the boardwalk trail around the basin, I returned to my car to find a bull elk about fifty feet away in the adjacent meadow.
We then headed out on the all day circle tour of Yellowstone that would take us to Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin, Filehole Lake Drive, Gibbon Falls, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Falls and then back to the Lake Lodge. The photograph above and below are from the Midway Geyser Basin.
Beside the geysers and mud pits, the colors that come from the pools of boiling water interesting details to capture. The photo above shows the deeper blue pool giving way to a very shallow area where algae grows changing the colors from glue to yellowish brown.
For this photo, I thought I would concentrate on the brilliant blues of the deepest part of one of the Midway Geyser Basin pools. The water temperature in these pools approaches two hundred degrees.
After this very long day of driving around the park , we settled in for another evening of sipping wine on the front porch of the Lake Lodge and watching the sky over Yellowstone Lake, but that sunset looked too good to resist. I grabbed my gear and walked the few hundred yards from the Lodge to the show of the lake and what a sunset it turned out to be, the photo at the top of the post was the grand finale.
I arose before sunrise the following morning with plans to photograph Yellowstone Falls from Artist Point. Although it had been warm during the day, it felt a little chilly in the morning, so instead of my usual shorts, I put on some jeans and put a coat in the car, just in case. My Boy Scout training of, be prepared, came in handy because I arrived at the empty parking lot at Artist Point, the outside temperature a chilling thirty five degrees. I had the overlook to myself for a few minutes and then was joined by another photographer who was wearing shorts and a hooded sweatshirt. He froze his tail off.
One can see why this overlook is called "Artist Point" as the falls and the colors of the surrounding valley look just like an oil painting, especially in the first light of day.
We lingered around the park for while and then drove out the southern entrance and went through Grand Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyoming on our way to pick up Interstate 15 that would take us home.
Taking my wife by complete surprise, (she was pretty done in and had fallen asleep in the car) I managed to sneak in one more national park stop at Bryce Canyon National Park. We arrived very late and very tired, but this side trip was well worth it.
So much so, we are planning to return to Bryce Canyon next April when the lodge inside the park opens for the season. Hopefully, by that time, we'll be a few pounds lighter and actually be able to hike some of those trails at the 8,000 foot altitude without crashing and burning. If we live to tell the tale, that'll be another post!