Day 16: June 23, 2014
Go, Go, Geyser

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Yesterday, I Tweeted the news that I was under the world's largest elk horn arch and got a reply asking how it compared to those in Jackson. I didn't know and I didn't even realize that I would soon find out. Jackson has an elk horn arch like the one pictured on all four corners of the town square. They appear to be larger than the similarly shaped ones at the ends of the main arch in Afton but are clearly smaller than that main arch which crosses four lanes. I also noted that Jackson also has a Cowboy Bar (although I didn't try it) and is celebrating its centennial.

Grand Teton National Park is adjacent to and just south of Yellowstone National Park and you actually go through GTNP to get to YNP when coming from this direction. These pictures were taken well before I was in either park. A mountain range that approaches 14,000 feet is not easily contained.

The first picture is from inside Grand Teton National Park and the second is inside Yellowstone National Park. They look pretty much like they are supposed to and there are no legitimate surprises. A little earlier, however, I began to realize just how naive I had been.

I had been using the first Yellowstone National Park entry listed by my GPS to estimate time and distance. When I bedded down last night, I had about a two hour drive to reach the park. Since Old Faithful was the main thing I wanted to see and I had seen a suggested itinerary for a one day Yellowstone visit that started with Old Faithful, I decided that's where I should head first. I found Old Faithful listed on the GPS and set it as my destination. My ETA jumped by an hour. Yellowstone is a big place and, while two hours might get me to the entrance, it was quite a bit farther to the big geyser. My simplistic view of the park would affect things later in the day even more.

The estimated time of the next eruption is displayed near the doors of the Old Faithful Visitor Center. I checked it and immediately headed to the viewing area thinking things might start popping any minute. Old Faithful is predictable but not precise. Based on the duration of an eruption, experts can predict the time of the next within about ten minutes. My math was a lot less accurate than that. I had mentally goofed on the time zone adjustment and, instead of being a few minutes away, the next eruption was an hour and a few minutes away. Maybe that was a good thing since I had a front row seat as the area continued to fill. My choice of location was reinforced when a ranger arrived at the end of the bench I was sitting on to give a presentation.

Old Faithful beat the prediction by about seven minutes. The tall tower of water was partially obscured by the ever present steam but it was definitely impressive. So was the crowd which the ranger had estimated as about 900. Bucket list shortened by one.

I goofed again right after the show although it wasn't apparent immediately. That sample itinerary suggested walking through one or more of the park's geyser fields. Old Faithful is in the Upper Geyser Basin and a stroll around it was there for the taking. Though I had not walked through any part of it, I had been looking at it for the better part of an hour so decided to go elsewhere. I should have taken to the paths at hand.

The photos were taken on the road between Upper Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs, the sample itinerary's end point. I turned onto the road leading to the Midway Geyser Basin but managed to extricate myself from the mass of cars hoping for a parking space before it became impossible. I didn't even try any of the others. I've included the picture of the backs of two people I don't know because of what they are looking at. The white arrow in the full size picture is aimed at a brown bear. I chose not to get into the tangle of cars pulling over but do kind of wish I had held up traffic long enough to get a decent photograph. My fuzzy enlargement of the fuzzy bear isn't much help but here it is.

The last two pictures were taken on what I believe is called Firehole Canyon Road.

Now I'll reveal just how naive an old guy can be. Maybe naive isn't exactly the right word but it will do. I didn't plot this eastbound route very carefully. I had some idea of just heading east when I was ready to leave Yellowstone. An after the fact closer look indicates that I was thinking of somehow getting on US-14. I checked the GPS when I got ready to leave Mammoth Hot Springs and it pointed to the north for the fastest route. Admittedly, going for the shortest route would probably have put me on US-14 but I had come through a fairly big construction site on the way to the springs and avoiding it did not seem like a bad thing. Besides, I'd never been in Montana.

Plus I got to go through the Roosevelt Gate for which Teddy himself laid the cornerstone in 1903. The quote comes from the congressional act that created Yellowstone, our first national park, in 1872. I'm wondering how/if fees are collected when folks enter through this gate.

Gardiner, Montana, lies just outside the park. There are quite a few motels but every one I saw with a "vacancy" sign had the "no" turned on. I didn't even try. I did try out one of Gardiner's many taverns, however. The name Two Bit Saloon caught my eye so I stepped in and up to the bar. They had plenty of other choices but, like the bar in Afton, Wyoming, they had Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap. I'm thinking it might have been two dollars plus some tax since I got two-eighty-something back from a five. In fact, I'm going to believe that's exactly how much it was because I like the idea of a two dollar beer in a Two Bit Saloon.

I headed north on 2-lane US-89 then east on 4-lane I-90. On both roads, the view through the windshield was pretty good.

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