The campground showers open at 8AM. I am standing at the door at 7:50.
A 30ish woman of Eastern European origin scowls at me as she unlocks the door. She slogs through her morning routine, starting the hot water in each side of the facility and depositing cash into the cash drawer. Fifteen minutes later she seems to notice me again, sticks out a hand to accept my money, and shoves a towel into my arms.
I set my expectations low on the cold, half-mile walk to the showers, resigned that I would be presented with a small trickle of water slightly warmer than the outdoor temperature. The torrent of hot water and steam coming from the shower head is a welcome surprise.
When I exit the showers, the woman who greeted me is gone, replaced by an older, grandmotherly-looking woman who smiles and tells me to have a nice day.
We eat first sausage, pack our gear into the car, and leave the Grand Tetons behind as we drive toward Yellowstone.
My first impression of Yellowstone isn’t great. The southern entrance is packed with people and not much can be seen besides a low forest of evergreens. It feels very much like driving through a giant Christmas tree farm.
Soon after entering, we discover that the 15 mile road to Old Faithful is closed. However, the 80 mile road that loops around to it is not. A park ranger tells us we need to hurry to our campsite before all spots are taken for the day.
We claim our site and make a short trek to the Norris Geyser Field nearby. It is nearly overrun with tourists. The geyser field is “neat’ but not what I would consider “pretty”.
The air smells strongly of sulphur and we see several passive-aggressive signs detailing the damage that humans have done to the park and the nature contained therein.
“If you feed a bear, we’ll have to kill it, and you’ll be single-handedly responsible for the demise of an entire species.” (sic)
It is late afternoon and I am hungry. This results in me being short with Matt and Terry and making a firm suggestion that we eat after watching Old Faithful spout.
The Old Faithful Grill provides the least-flavorful burger I’ve ever had – meat content somewhere south of 50%. I make up for it by buying a bag of Twizzlers and Reese’s Pieces which I proceed to demolish as we hike the boardwalks surrounding the geysers north of Old Faithful. These pools and geysers prove to be more colorful and interesting than the others we have seen during the day.
I am finishing off my Reece’s Pieces as I watch a man jump off the boardwalk to retrieve an action figure he dropped into the mud below. Given that he is just a few feet away from super-heated steam and bubbling clay that is hot enough to melt flesh, I think I would have abandoned Tiny Hulk to fend for himself if it were me. Unfortunately, he makes it safely back onto the boardwalk.
The sun sets and provides us with the best view of the day – a scene that reminds me of pictures from Iceland and doesn’t match my expectations of northern Wyoming. Yellowstone has largely made up for its poor first impression.