On Monday we decided to get up early, get out early (8:15 AM) and see what we could before it rained. Our first stop was at Uncle Tom's Trail. We had been rained out there last week.
No problem parking. We then joined a small crowd on the hike. After a series of switchbacks, the trail becomes a staircase of 328 steep metal steps.
I just kept going down, down, down, thinking: "I will look at the view on the way up, it will give me an excuse to rest". Craig said he felt a little vertigo as he descended. He was quite afraid of heights when he was younger, but is not bothered very often now.
A railed viewing platform at the bottom of the stairs gave us a good look at the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. We saw it from the top last week.
We also got a good look at the yellow stone of the canyon walls.
Back up the 328 steps! Puff, puff. The sign warned that at an altitude of 8000 feet, this hike was not recommended for anyone suffering from heart or respiratory weakness. Glad we can still make it!
Our next stop was a short drive over to Artists' Point. An easy stroll from the Jeep took us to the overlook of the Lower Falls, canyon and river.
Heading back West, we pulled into the parking area for the Norris Geyser Basin. We cruised slowly around the lot and scored a parking space by watching for people who were leaving.
By this time, busloads of other tourists were arriving. We could have eaten in the car, but decided to look for a picnic table. None were around, so we found a vacant bench to eat at.
Although Yellowstone is huge, and as you drive along you can see vast expanses of wilderness, the parking lots are generally congested. The paved trails and boardwalks are designed to preserve the delicate ground, but also tend to herd all the people together. Recently I read a 10-year-old article in National Geographic, that said there was a plan being considered to require advanced reservations to get into the parks. I'm so glad that never happened. Nor do I think raising the admission fees is appropriate. The National Parks should not be only for the rich. All American families should have access. Some might suggest excluding the foreign tourists in some way, either by having them pay more or by reservation, but this would hurt the economy. Foreign tourists spend a lot when they come here, and the National Parks are a big draw.
But once parked and on the pathways, it can be possible to ignore the crowds on the trails by looking "out".
At the viewpoints and overlooks it is often necessary to wait a few minutes for another person to leave so you can stand in that "best place" for your photo. Selfie sticks are everywhere. I notice them, but don't mind them. We occasionally exchange picture taking with other couples so as to get a few shots with both of us in them, and perhaps if I were traveling alone I might try a selfie stick. They are just part of the culture now.
Do we wish we were here alone? Of course, but I just keep reminding myself that we are lucky to be here at all. There are better months for full timers to visit Yellowstone. May and October are less crowded, but can be a bit cold. Our July visit was planned because it was the most convenient, given that we want to go to Glacier National Park in August. So here we are.
The Artists Paint Pots were the last of our stops. My legs were very tired by this time, and I was fooled by the description of the easy 500 yard trail up to the pots. It included more stairs! But the pots were interesting to see.
|A rivulet of color caused by the microbes that live in the hot water running out of the pools.|
|No mud in this pool, just explosive boiling water.|
Once again, as we looked out over the land from the top of the Artist Paint Pot area we were intrigued by the colors we could see. I think that tiny spot of white behind the trees in the upper left is the parking area.
All in all it was a very nice day.
It did not rain until it was time to cook dinner back at the rig.
Craig wore his Niagara Falls poncho to flip our burgers on the Weber Q.