Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tales of a Western Adventure: Part II

My vacation dreams for the past few years have revolved around England.  We considered going this summer, but with the Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics, and the high cost of plane travel, we decided against it and moved on to "Option B."  The American west has actually been a fascination of ours for years, and our excitement grew as we researched and planned our trip.  As much as I would love to see England and surround myself in British accents, I cannot imagine that I would feel any more inspired and awed by the English countryside.  The west has lassoed me; and its hold is as tight today, a few months after the trip, as it was when I returned home.

I will never forget the drive to the town of West Yellowstone, with my rear view mirror framing the picturesque snow-capped Teton range and miles of potato fields on both sides of the road. I have never enjoyed looking in the rear view mirror as I did during those few hours.  When we finally arrived in West Yellowstone, the small town was a welcome sight.  It is the quintessential western tourist town, with locally owned hotels, a couple of small grocery stores, lots of tourist shops, slanted street parking, and stoplights that turn into blinking caution lights after 9:00 pm.

We were filled with anticipation the next morning as we drove through the western entrance gate and into one of the nation's most famous parks.  I could hardly believe that we were actually in Yellowstone after months of planning and dreaming.  One of the downfalls to being a very thorough trip planner, is that you can build up your expectations to such a high level, reality falls short. At first, we were a little skeptical that Yellowstone would live up to our dreams. We saw lodgepole pines for a few miles, but then a glimmer of brilliant blue caught our eyes.  The Madison River was tranquilly flowing, creating a gentle melody as it tumbled over pebbles.  I have never seen a river on the east coast that is as pure, crisp, and clear as the Madison   Our breath was taken away for the first of many times on our trip.  A bit further down the road, we witnessed a huge herd of bison taking a drink in the river.  That was the first of many bison sightings, and we happily checked wildlife sighting number 1 of off our list.

The awe inspiring moments continued through the first day.  It was like time magically slows in the park. When I reflect on how much we experienced on just our first day it the park, it amazes me. The diversity cannot be described in words; it must be seen first hand.

Bison herd at the Madison River

One of the bison "guards."

The Yellowstone River

The bacteria mats at the fountain paint pots.

Our first geyser sighting.  We couldn't capture the smell of sulfur (rotten eggs).
The white area in the foreground  is sulfur.  Just a few feet away, wildflowers and grass were growing. 

The Excelsior Geyser Crater near the Grand Prismatic Spring. 

Stunning - The Grand Prismatic Spring

Old Faithful

West Thumb on Yellowstone Lake.  The sulfur covered ground and
 blue springs were a  beautiful contrast to the lake. 

Black Pool at West Thumb.  This was my favorite pool;
you could actually see into the crater.

LeHardy Rapids.  Each July, trout brave the power of these rapids to
 swim upstream.  That would be an amazing sight!

A bison at the Mud Volcano.

The pure and sparkling Madison River

What a way to end the day - Sunset over Yellowstone. 

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