I walked the boardwalks near Old Faithful with my two sisters, our footsteps transporting us back to a visit 42 years ago. What do you remember about Yellowstone?”, I asked. “It was big and smelled funny!”, they agreed. “Yep, like rotten eggs!”, I added. Laughing, we reminisced about our first family RV trip from California to New York and back. Nine of us crammed into a large camper, suitable for four!
What a blessing to re-experience the park with Donna and Sharon after all these years and spend time with brother-in-law, Mike. Donna’s hubby, Clay, was unable to join us due to work commitments. His absence brought back memories of that first trip when Donna and I left our then boyfriends, now husbands, for weeks that seemed like an eternity. According to Mom’s journal, Donna shed tears and I secretly wished the trip would be cancelled!
If memories of our first visit were fuzzy, this trip painted vivid ones. High on “the animals to see list” were moose and bear. A trip to Grand Teton National Park on Day 1 delivered a young velvet antlered, bull moose lunching in the river along Moose-Wilson road. Donna and Sharon made mental notes to add Polish pottery, specially hand-painted with moose, to their souvenir shopping lists. Lists that seemed to grow each day!
Bears showed up on Day 2 as if our ultimate tour guide, Greg, scheduled the sighting. Mama Black Bear and three cubs leisurely traipsed across the bridge near Yellowstone’s Tower-Roosevelt Junction. It may have been Yellowstone’s celebrity bears that made national news and went viral on You Tube a month or so ago. In the following days, we caught bears napping under trees, wandering across meadows and foraging close to the road.
When Mike headed to Yellowstone Lake armed with fishing poles and other fish-catching paraphernalia, Greg escorted us sisters to Mammoth Hot Springs and a 4-mile roundtrip hike to Hellroaring Creek. Descending the steep trail made me feel like Dorothy entering Oz. Wildflowers bloomed in an extravagant color-fest from soft pink and blue pastels to brilliant hues of yellow and scarlet in lush green meadows. Mountain peaks framed the river valley view under sapphire skies. The trail wound through a storybook forest filled with emerald tinted pines and wildflower carpets to a steel suspension bridge spanning the Yellowstone River. Sturdy as it was, it swayed under our heavy stomping and hopping. We voted this hike as one of, if not “the”, prettiest hikes we’ve experienced and credited the season for the award.
Back on the boardwalks at Old Faithful, black skies creeped in while we waited for Grand Geyser to erupt. Most people are familiar with Old Faithful but Grand is the tallest predictable geyser in the world blasting up to 200 feet high for 9 to 12 minutes every 7 to 8 hours on average. Compared to Old Faithful’s frequent bursts every 90 minutes or so for 1.5 to 5 minutes, Grand is aptly named. Thunder rumbled and cracked as if applauding Grand’s performance. Black skies arrived.
We hurried towards the lodge but the drama continued. Castle Geyser, which often erupts with little or no warning about every 9 to 11 hours took the stage, spewing an encore performance.
We reached shelter before walls of rain fell. Standing in the sun just minutes later, the whole experience felt unreal. Yellowstone seemed to celebrate our return, or maybe it was just showing off. Reminding us what we missed the first time.
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