Travel Update: Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park was my farewell to the West, a final camping and hiking adventure before I was to spend three very long driving days covering the 2,000 miles of hot asphalt that separated me from my parents in Virginia.

My experience in Yellowstone was probably typical to that of other visitors.  Buffalo, geysers, long stretches of vast wilderness between natural wonders, and so many photographs taken.

Old Faithful at the tail end of its eruption

Old Faithful at the tail end of its eruption

I’ll be honest – a lot of the scenery in Yellowstone didn’t impress me as much as I thought it would.  I drove through long corridors of unremarkable two-lane road bordered by dense evergreens – maybe unique in the west, but not remarkable for someone who comes from a heavily wooded state.  I didn’t understand until I visited how big the entirety of the park really is, and how far you can drive from one place to another before the scenery changes.

Saphhire hot spring

Sapphire hot spring

But loved the Geyser Basin.  The area around Old Faithful called Biscuit Basin is riddled with (very) hot springs and erupting geysers.  The trees thin out and rainbow-colored pools of boiling water and steam dot the landscape.  This part of the park is unreal – unlike anywhere else I’ve been, even unlike the hot springs I’ve visited.  The barrenness of the Western landscape is what has always drawn me, so it makes sense that this was my favorite spot in the park.

cloudy pool in biscuit basin

cloudy pool in biscuit basin

On a short hike, we were lucky to see a rainbow in the valley just as Old Faithful erupted again.

IMG_1608

Lamar valley is the first place I would go back, if I ever make it to Yellowstone again.  Camping here would have been divine; I’m sorry we didn’t try to make it work, but I don’t think I nor my couchsurfing friend were prepared to wild camp in grizzly bear country.

Lamar Valley panorama

Lamar Valley

Possibly I could also have been trampled by a buffalo, always something to be avoided when in a tent.

Buffalo crossing

Buffalo crossing

My favorite long-distance views were from Mount Washburn.  It’s not a very difficult or interesting trail, but I would recommend it for the views from the top.

Panorama from the spur trail

Panorama from the spur trail

Wildlife on the trail was limited to some mildly interesting moths, but from the summit we could look through telescopes to see the bighorn sheep on the opposite hillside.

two bighorn ewes and a kid

two bighorn ewes and a kid, seen through a spotting scope

I would have loved to continue hiking the spur trail that follows the top of the ridge from the Mount Washburn summit.  The grassy plains and scattered rocks reminded me of the rolling fields in Ireland, so green and vast.

Spur trail up to Mount Washburn summit

Looking up toward the watchtower from the spur trail

And the hillsides covered in butter-colored wildflowers didn’t hurt either.

Field of flowers

And that was it.  I put the holy West behind me reluctantly, cutting a sprig of sagebrush as as last souvenir.

As cross-country trips go, mine tend to be hurried.  Three solid days of driving got me back to Virginia without much to show for my journey except 15 cups of coffee and emergency oil change in Montana.  And so the lull in my travels began, which as I write is coming to an end.  In two weeks, I’ll begin a trip through South America that may last six months or more.  I’ll keep writing and posting photos, so stay tuned.

Gallery

Farewell to Mount Rose

Yesterday I hiked Mount Rose, possibly for the last time.  I don’t know when I’ll be back, if I ever do come back to Reno.

Isn’t strange how sometimes goodbyes aren’t as dramatic as they should be? No matter how hard we try to remind ourselves that “this is the last one” or “I’ll never get the chance to do this again”, we can’t force the occasion to feel any different than it would otherwise.  Sometimes the last one or the last time just feels like every other time.

So this was my farewell hike up Mount Rose, and it was about like every other time I’ve hiked it.

That said – summiting an 11,000-foot mountain with incredible views of a gigantic blue mountain lake and a beloved city is still summiting an 11,000-foot mountain! And what a clear, beautiful day it was!