Adventures in Montana

Yellowstone

Last Memorial Day, we went to Yellowstone National Park.  Actually, we left on Sunday morning.  It wasn’t really planned, we just kind of decided to do it.  Just kind of a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing.

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If you really have no idea where Yellowstone is, it’s in the northwestern-most corner of the state of Wyoming, with thin strips of the park lying within the eastern border of Idaho and the southern border of Montana.

We drove there from our house in Farmington, Utah; so we took the Interstate 15 north pretty deep into Idaho, until we had realized that we missed the turn and ended up getting off the freeway and going to this tiny “service station” in the middle of nowhere to ask for directions.  It was really just an old house that reeked of that old house smell and cigarette smoke, with two old ladies working there, but they told us that we could go east on a dirt road that would take us pretty much straight to West Yellowstone.  And they had cold Mountain Dew, so it was all good.

We took our minivan down the dirt road, which worked out fine because it was actually fairly smooth and well graded and we could do like 40 or 50 mph on the straight parts.  There were still the remains of dirty snowbanks on the sides of the road in some places.  Actually, most of Yellowstone still had a lot of snow left.  When we were up on the Beartooth Highway, the mountains were still covered in a few feet of it.  But anyway, the road took us through forests and past some ranches and wound around quite a bit before we actually got to West Yellowstone.  But I think it was still pretty early in the afternoon when we got to the park entrance.

On Sunday, we basically drove from West Yellowstone, Idaho, to Gardner, Montana, so we were going through the northwest area of the park.  It’s actually a very large park; one Yellowstone documentary I saw said that it is technically big enough to be its own state.

A fire a few years back had swept through most of the park, so most of the forests are not very tall and very light green.  But the ones we saw as we first started into the park still had the old, tall trees.  The few hours we had on Sunday may have been the best part of the whole thing.

Most of the stuff we saw wasn’t super noteworthy, but it was still a nice place.  We ended up in Gardiner by the time it was about to get dark.  Gardiner is this redneck town right on the northern entrance to Yellowstone, in southern Montana.  All the buildings have those wooden false fronts, and I swear every business also had a bar.  Like, at the end of all the place-name signs you would almost always see “& Bar.”  We ended up eating at this pizza place, which was pretty good, and then getting a single small room in the Best Western.  They had a hot tub, which was nice, but I didn’t get much sleep that night.  But when I don’t sleep, I think.

Since about the Summer after eighth grade, I’d had these fantasies about being a music artist.  They were really just fantasies, though; not much aspiration.  More just random stuff I came up with, and I was really just fantasizing to pass the time.  I just remember, when I was laying there, unable to sleep due to the crowded conditions, I was thinking about this remix that was on the radio (I listened to the radio a lot more last summer, but that’s unimportant).  I was really thinking about the lyrics of the song that was being remixed and they kind of applied to a situation I was in.  I started thinking about what I could do with that particular song, to make it cooler or personalize it or something.  (I don’t actually do stuff like this, I just come up with ideas all the time.)  Then I’m like, what if I came up with my own lyrics to build on what they’re saying and then, like, rapped them over the electro-music that had been remixed in.  And then after every rap-verse the chorus of the song would play… And what if I had some stage name…what about my Reddit username?  That would be really cool…..

Obviously, I never actually did that.  I don’t really even listen to that kind of music now.  But that idea was, as far as I can remember, the first real aspiration I had.  I’ve always had a small aspiration to be a music artist since then, although it has evolved quite a bit.  I’m just not sure exactly what to do……

Anyway, Yellowstone.  I don’t know… the next day we got up and went to the breakfast buffet that was complementary with the hotel.  That was good, because an unlimited amount of free food is always good.

We went back in the North Entrance and the drive for a while from the entrance was beautiful.  I don’t remember what everything was called, but there were some cool waterfalls and forests and mountains and lots of wildlife; mostly buffalo, deer and caribou.  I do remember that we took a side road to go see this petrified tree and there were a whole bunch of cars lined up, and I’m like, “Is a petrified tree really that interesting?”… Turns out there was a black bear, down the hill in the small valley, not more than maybe three hundred feet away from us.  It was just chilling out, messing around with some log… it took a swim in the creek (which, for your information, is pronounced “creeeeek”, not “crick”) and floated down the river until we couldn’t see it well anymore.

The Beartooth Highway was also cool, I think it’s like the highest paved road in the United States or something to that effect.  It went up the mountain and over this pass, and like I said, there was still at least a few feet of snow left up there.  I don’t know if that’s normal for the end of May?  I guess at that elevation it is.

I found a picture…

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So that’s cool.  Another cool place was this canyon, called “The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River”.  I think this place is why they called the park “Yellowstone”, because the cliffs are made of yellow stone.  And there’s a bunch of these waterfalls… I’ll find a picture for this one…

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I got that one from Wikipedia.  I don’t care what your English teacher says; Wikipedia’s the best.

We drove around this area and checked out some of the viewpoints around the area.  It would make sense to see formations like this in a place like southern Utah, but in a place like this it’s kind of weird.  But still really awesome.

We drove down from here, past the Yellowstone lake, which is apparently the largest high-elevation lake in the United States (Yellowstone has a lot of those high-elevation records I guess).  It looks exactly like you think it would look, just like a big lake in the mountains.

Before we hit the road for the long haul back, [It was getting late in the afternoon and we wanted to be back in Utah and have some time to sleep before we had work and school and stuff the next day (but let me just say, I would have definitely rather stayed in Yellowstone than gone to school those last few days.  I pretty much had almost no social life at that point.  It really never got much better from there; as I’ve been in California this past couple of weeks I feel like the last little bit of it just kind of melted… but ninth grade… ugh.).], we hit the Old Faithful Geyser, because you can’t go to Yellowstone and not see that…just in case nobody’s seen it or seen a picture or anything, I’ll find another Wikipedia picture.

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Perfect.

We had enough daylight left to see the Grand Tetons on our way back (we took a different route back).  We ate at Wendy’s in Jackson Hole.  As we passed through Jackson, I was a little bummed that the pizza place we would always go to when we were up there on my birthday was no longer there.  Mountain High Pizza Pie will be missed. Anyway, we drove down from Jackson down the canyon along the Snake River (which brought back some good memories because my extended family used to have this big family reunion every couple of years where we would go river rafting in that canyon) to Star Valley.  The sun was going down as we were passing through the valley.  Star Valley is a nice place.

We went down through Montpelier, Idaho, and passed Bear Lake (I guess one wouldn’t know where those places were unless they lived in the general area.).  We drove down Logan Canyon, which is pretty treacherous in the dark, especially after the summit near Bear Lake.  We didn’t end up getting back to Farmington until around 1 a.m., so I’m glad I picked up that Mountain Dew Big Gulp during that last long haul to save for the next day.

So yeah, Yellowstone was cool, 10 out of 10 would recommend.

Yellowstone – Images

The ol’ Yellowstone image-a-roo.

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Buffalo. They have quite a few of those there.

This happened quite a bit.  It's like, "Seriously, you have to have been here for at least an hour.  You've really never seen a buffalo before?"

This happened quite a bit. It’s like, “Seriously, you have to have been here for at least an hour. You’ve really never seen a buffalo before?”

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Hello.

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This thing was weird.

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Pizza.

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The Gardiner River went right behind our hotel.

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There should have been a sign on this arch, on the side that you see as you exit the park, that says “Welcome to Gardiner- Hey, you want some beer?! We got plenny of it!!!”

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Das moi.

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This is the petrified tree, by where the bear was.  Unfortunately, there is no picture of Smokey himself for some reason.

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2014 - Valerie Christensen -- 2014-05-26.jpg

Those weird rock formations.

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Le Grand Canyon of le Yellowstone River.

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Kind of makes sense why they called the place “Yellowstone” when you see this one.

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Product placement?

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Yellowstone Lake. There was still a lot of ice left in it.

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I think this one might be Old Faithful, but I kind of… forgot. Oops.

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This one is the Grand Prismatic Spring, the big one with all the blue and yellow and orange. It’s the one they had on all those “Montana” bus ads in Utah a while back, which is weird because this is in Wyoming.

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They still had all these big dirty remnants of snowbanks left on the side of the road.

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