Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Summer of a Little Bit Wild: Yellowstone

After recovering from the marathon as best I could, we headed to Idaho Falls to stay overnight with friends.  This visit had been one of my ulterior motives for running the marathon-- it was only 2 hours away from friends I really wanted to see and hadn't for a couple of years. 

As soon as we arrived, Will set off with our friends' two boys, and these 3 tow-headed little children spent the rest of the day and night romping through the house and yard like a small pack of wild animals who were having the time of their lives.  Will even slept upstairs (in bed with one or both of the boys), which is the farthest away he has ever slept from me except for the one time I was away overnight for the Frisco Railroad Run.

Playing with friends
Will showing his friends our camper.
Our friends made a delicious curry for dinner and then helped us devise a plan for Yellowstone, which basically involved trying to leave their house by 6am the next morning and get there as early as possible.  The campsites are on a first come/ first serve basis and if you aren't there by 8 in the morning or so, you are out of luck.  Our friends had warned us that you just have to drive around the campground and watch for people emerging from their tents to brush their teeth, and ask them if they are leaving and you can take their site.  If they say yes, you just sit there idling as they pack up their stuff.

This is the exact procedure involved in finding a parking space at Target in St. Louis on a Saturday or Sunday.  Horrifying.

We managed to get out of the house at a fairly reasonable hour and make it to the Norris Campground, where we found a site without too much trouble. (I think we were kind of just dumb-lucky).

Then it was time for some sightseeing.  The thing about Yellowstone is that it is HUGE.  That meant a lot of driving.

Norris is kind of centrally located, and we decided to do the north loop of the park first, which included the hot springs of Mammoth Country and a small detour into Montana (because none of us had ever been to Montana before).

Hot springs

Then we decided to hike on the Yellowstone Picnic Trail because it seemed like something Will could do, and it would offer good views of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Yellowstone River trail
I was surprised how great I felt just one day after the marathon. I had no pain in either my injured leg or blistered foot.

Yellowstone River

We had taken so long just to accomplish these few things (did I mention that the park is huge and everything is far apart) that it was already late in the day and time to head back to Norris, where I got creative with the camp stove for dinner.

On most of the other times we have been camping, it has just been for one night and I have made pasta for dinner.  But this time I had tried very hard (and expended much effort) to figure out what else I might cook during our more extended adventure.  Our first night in Yellowstone, I made Roasted Garlic Cous Cous, which was brilliant and easy.  It is just a box mix you can buy at the grocery store, and to make it, you add boiling water and cover it for 5 minutes (more like 7-9 at that altitude).  I also opened up a can of vegan baked beans and heated them up, and for our vegetable, we had raw broccoli still fresh in our fancy new Yeti bear-proof cooler (it keeps stuff cold for a really long time).

I was pretty darn proud of myself for putting this together.

Norris had a ranger program that evening, and we went to it.  The program was about earthquakes and the geology of the Norris region.  Will was aiming to complete his Junior Ranger booklet (so he could get a fancy Junior Ranger badge), and attending the program fulfilled one of the requirements.  Will sat rapt, listening to the ranger's every word.  It was so much more educational than the education system.

The ranger who led the program talked about how the Norris campground was notorious for the presence of wandering bison, and on our first night there, the bison did not disappoint.  On my way back from the bathroom, I found this between me and our campsite.

Campsite bison

When I woke up the next morning, my left food hurt a lot as I tried to climb down from the camper, and I could barely put any weight on it as I tried to hobble to the bathroom.  I discovered that my initial blister had a sub-blister that I had completely overlooked, and at some point between the marathon and this moment, it had become inflamed.  To make matters worse, my injured right leg was throbbing in pain.  

This whole situation made walking quite difficult, if not impossible, and meant that for me, hiking was out of the question.

We started out exploring the Norris Geyser Basin, which was really cool and sulfuric, but even the little paved nature trails were difficult and painful for me to manage.

Norris geyser basin

We then continued south on the Grand Loop towards Old Faithful.  Because you've got to see Old Faithful, right?

We had a long wait among throngs of people until the next eruption, but that gave us plenty of time to help Will work on his ranger booklet and earn his badge.

The school district is doing away with "Eco Week" because learning about the environment and natural world doesn't meet Common Core standards.  Thank goodness for national parks and junior ranger programs, which still value teaching kids useful things.
At last, the geyser erupted.
Old Faithful

It was okay, I guess.  Pretty cool even.  But the masses of people who had packed into the Old Faithful Industrial Complex made it seem kind of as awful as I imagine Disney World would be.  

Also, my foot hurt.  And my leg hurt.  And I hadn't had coffee since Thursday.

Requisite family photo by Old Faithful.

We spent so much time in the gift shop and general store (Old Faithful Industrial Complex was an honest-to-god city) that by the time we were ready to leave, it was almost time for the geyser to erupt again.  We thought we might as well stay, but in the end, we felt like we'd only wasted too much time there and left other amazing parts of the park unseen.

When we finally left and continued driving around the south loop, I fell asleep right around the time we passed Yellowstone Lake.  I had really wanted to see this, though I hadn't mentioned it to Rob, so he didn't wake me.  Luckily he took this picture.

Yellowstone Lake

We drove past Hayden Valley and saw a lot of bison.

More bison


Then we stopped at the Lower Falls and Upper Falls, which give amazing views of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Yellowstone River.

Yellowstone River lower falls

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Even the short (yet steep) walk to see the falls was excruciating, on both my open blister and injured leg.

We headed back to our site at Norris campground, where I again tried to get creative with dinner, but this time, with much less success.

The quinoa mix I attempted to make seemed like it was never going to cook at this altitude, and the beans were kind of like a large unflavorful blob.  We did find however, that Will will eat roasted chickpeas if you call them "chickpea popcorn," so that was a plus.

Yellowstone campsite

We settled in again for the night, and I hoped that in the morning both my foot and injured leg would be better, as we planned to move on to the Tetons.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing pictures!!! Beautiful country for sure!! another Exciting adventure with the Ragfields!! So happy Will got his OFFICIAL park ranger badge!! HIs "out of school" education is wonderful!!! so happy you keep interesting" finds" for him!!! hopefully your next adventure won't involve blisters and pain!!! as always. Thanks for,taking us along through your pictures and report!! maybe you and Will can be tour guides! someday! and start your COOKIN by the Campfire classes!!!YUMMMMM hugs and luv đŸ˜˜mama