For our second day in Yellowstone, we began to seriously consider the fact that we would not have a week in the park due to our internet issues. So, we needed to make the most of our very limited time and the only way to do that in Yellowstone is to climb in the car and drive…a lot. We had many things on our to do list, including the Lower Falls, Old Faithful, and Lamar Valley (the “American Serengeti”) to name just a few.
Our first destination was the Lower Falls, because it was the closest, but it still took some time to get there as we had several pleasant distractions. First, we had to wait for a herd of bison to cross the road (And, before you ask, I don’t know why they crossed the road). Additionally, of course, when there are animals, there is traffic both from the waiting for the crossing to occur and to allow the 30 cars in front of us to take pictures of the sight. I include myself in that group because no matter how many time I saw bison in Yellowstone (and we saw a lot) I had to take a picture of the 2000-pound creature.
Our second pleasant distraction was the Mud Volcano, a stop that included a brief hike around several interesting geothermal features, including my favorite, the dragon’s mouth, appropriately named for the cavern’s “sloshing, belching, and steaming” (as noted by Yellowstone’s website). Hong, finding the trail’s sulphuric smells somewhat unpleasant, hurried through and returned to the car. Chris and I enjoyed the walk and seeing the bubbling mud pots.
We finally made it to the Lower Falls, first walking with the other 500 tourists to Artist‘s Point to view the falls from afar. The sight of the canyon and the falls was spectacular, but for Hong, this view was simply not enough. He needed to be closer. So, off we went to search for the trail that gets us as close to the Falls as possible. We found Uncle Tom’s Trail and without hesitation, began our journey.
The trail is not strenuous but for those with a fear of heights, apparently a group to which I now belong, the trail can be a bit intimidating. The trail leads to a series of steep, steel-mesh stairs, 328 stairs to be exact. Going down this steep set of stairs while being able to see everything under you makes for an interesting and, as noted by one hiker, “trippy“ journey. Tightly gripping the handrail, I took one step at a time, trying to ignore the dizziness I was feeling while also chanting to myself, “Don‘t look down.” (But, inevitably looking down.) I finally reached the bottom, thankful I had persevered through my new fear of heights. The destination was marvelous. Surprisingly, there were few people on the small platform at the bottom. We had enough space to take a few pictures and have a moment to just stare at the scenery. While going up the 328 stairs was not as scary, Chris and I were quickly reminded that we are getting old and that we need to work out more. (Hong practically ran up the stairs and showed no signs of being tired. What an annoying inspiration he is.)
Believe it or not, that was about all we had time for that day. By the time we made it back to our campground, it was approaching dinner time and we were tired of being in a car. We decided to check out a trail near our campground to stretch our legs. Before we could get to that trail, however, we had to wait for more buffalo to cross the road. This time, we were much closer to the action and one buffalo was not happy. He made all sorts of grunting sounds and even rubbed up against one car. An exciting moment. And, as usual, I took pictures.
Our last trail of the day was a trail called Storm Point, which passes by Indian Pond and leads to Yellowstone Lake. Ironically, or maybe not so much, a storm was moving in while we were on the trail. We made the short hike to the lake, took some pictures, and the strong winds guided us back quickly to our car. It was a great day in Yellowstone and I look forward to my necessary return trip in order to complete my to-do list. Question: Does the fact that I neglected to see Old Faithful make me a bad tourist?