Yellowstone II and Grand Tetons

This day was about the balance of karma. Something incredibly lucky happened, I did something stupid, and another hurdle has been added to our path.

We left Gardiner, MT about 10AM and headed south, keeping to the west side of Yellowstone. This was the opposite of our route of yesterday, when we went north on the east side of the park. It seems that the east side of the park is more about wildlife and the west side of the park is more about the hydrothermal features of the park. Our first stop was the Norris Basin, just south of the 45th parallel. We did the 1/2 mile walking loop to see the Porcelain Basin. The basin had colorful streams due to the thermophile bacteria, very hot springs, steam vents, and kind of mini-geysers that spurted hot water an inch or so into the air. There are also some real geysers, but they are of the unpredictable variety. One last erupted in 2005. Deciding not to wait around for the next eruption, we continued south, had a picnic lunch, then kept going. By the time we got to Old Faithful, both of us needed some caffeine to keep us going. So, despite the fact that we were not inclined to wait around up to  90 minutes to see Old Faithful do its thing, we pulled off the road and headed for the lodge to get a cup of coffee. As might be expected, we found a huge parking lot whose only open spaces were hundreds of yards from the lodge. So we decided to see if we could get lucky closer in. So I headed for the lodge and just as we are turning the corner to pass by the front of the lodge we spot the crowd waiting for Old Faithful. We were as close as you could possibly get to Old Faithful in a car. And whoosh! Old Faithful erupts. I rolled down my window and took some nice pictures without ever even parking the car!

And that was our last stop in Yellowstone. Grasping our coffee, we started to the south once again. The road to the south entrance crosses the continental divide three times. We were stopped for 15-30 minutes for a road crew to do its thing, so I got out and took pictures of the wildflowers. I do not know if there are better times to see the wildflowers in the park, but they decorated the roadside quite nicely. The road out of Yellowstone immediately crosses into Grand Teton National Park. The defining feature is a mountain range that is among the youngest in the US. The John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway runs down the east side of a large lake that sets the mountains in relief. Being so young, the Teton Range is very craggy and looks very much like the glaciated mountains we saw on our cruise many years ago to Alaska. I told Kris that I approved of using my money to preserve this park. There is a very nice visitors center just north of Jackson, WY.

We had dinner at a BBQ joint in Jackson and began our run back toward civilization. We headed west into Idaho and toward I-15. Today marked Kris’ first visit to Idaho. I was thrilled to see the headwaters of the Snake River, one object of middle school geography lessons so long ago. Reaching I-15 at Idaho Falls, ID, we sprinted toward Pocatello and bed. We get to Pocatello, pull into the Comfort Inn about 10PM, and I go in to register. The clerk tells me that she does not have a reservation for me. So here comes the stupid part. I check my reservation and the reservation was for the Comfort Inn in Idaho Falls! I throw myself on the mercy of the clerk. She has one last room and she calls the Comfort Inn at Idaho Falls. Much to my relief, they allow me to cancel the room without penalty and so we are not forced to drive some sixty miles back to Idaho Falls. Whew!

As soon as we came close to Idaho Falls, we re-entered the Sprint coverage area and so I am once again available by cell phone. Here comes the new hurdle part. One of my voicemail messages was from the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington, DC. It seems that they will waive the normal $100 visa fee for me, as the Fulbright Scholar, but not for Kris. This despite assurances from the US-Sri Lankan Fulbright Commission that such was not to be the case. At this point, however, we do not have time to contest the issue as was recommended by the USSL Fulbright Commission staff at the Pre-Departure Orientation. So now I need to contact them and figure out how to get them $100 in an acceptable form to them in as little time as possible. Sigh.

Tomorrow we start our high speed run to the Bay Area. Tomorrow’s leg is from Pocatello, ID to Reno, NV. Maybe tomorrow will be boring and I can make more progress on my photos.

Tim

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