|Saturday, September 1, 2001...
Greetings from West Yellowstone, Montana, where for some reason
I'm having a hard time keeping my eyes open.
The adrenaline which got me through last night's flight-delay fiasco wore off early in the drive north, so I napped in the car for an hour at an Idaho rest area. That brought my total to 2-1/2 hours for what can loosely be described as "the night." I'll at least triple that tonight...
When stopping for breakfast in small towns, I try to read the local paper for a sense of the community. Ogden's made me feel like I had never left New York: the lead story this morning was headlined "Tenants Fear Loss of HUD Assistance," about the impending expiration of a local Section 8 housing program. As I had spent most of my last two days at the office trying to keep a client's refinancing of a Section 8 housing project on track, that caught my attention. So did the rents -- HUD's designated fair-market rent for a 1-BR apartment in Ogden is $550/month...
Even with the nap and a stop for provisions (cooler, ice, soft drinks, Gatorade, water, snacks) en route, I reached West Yellowstone, Montana shortly before noon. Heading through town and into the park, the last building on the right is an enormous IMAX theater with a bizarre triple bill: "Yellowstone," "Wolves," and "Michael Jordan."
The park, of course, was spectacular. With this trip following the nearsighted hunter's motto of "shoot anything that moves," I spent six hours just revisiting the sights along the southwestern loop of the park road. That includes several animal-caused delays -- when a herd of bison decides to cross the road, even an SUV had better yield the right of way.
This corner of the park includes the park's largest collection of thermal features -- geysers, hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles -- including the inevitable Old Faithful, the only natural attraction with its own highway-style cloverleaf exit. Old Faithful erupts at an average interval of 85 minutes; I only had to wait three.
At least two-thirds of the thousand or so people waiting with me got in their cars and drove away as soon as the show was over. Had they simply continued past Old Faithful into the rest of the Upper Geyser Basin, they'd have seen dozens more geysers, all much more approachable than Old Faithful (which must be viewed from at least 100 feet away). A few were erupting, others were steaming, and the rest were deceptively placid masses of bizarrely twisted rock. Morning Glory Pool is at the other end of a 1.4 mile trail from Old Faithful and is probably seen by fewer visitors in a year than see Old Faithful over a single July weekend.
But after returning from that hike, which raised my miles walked/hours slept ratio to 2:1, I decided to call it a day even though it was only 6:00. Tomorrow I'll be walking just as far -- and a big chunk of tomorrow's mileage will be vertical as well as horizontal, hiking down both sides of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
More tomorrow ...I'm tired!
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