June 7 - 19: Idaho and Montana (and Idaho again)

6/9 - West Yellowstone (LAYOVER 2830.5 total)
sari & i were up by 7, combined our dirty clothes & did a load of wash while we were at the freebie breakfast here at the fairfield inn, hung up our clothes to dry in our room, then were down in the lobby with 6 or so other riders to board the grayline tour bus at 8:30. it was on of those smaller buses with wide windows that went up into the ceiling of the bus. we got dropped off at the grayline office to pay our bill. while there i asked a couple of people behind the counter where there was a good sub shop. by early this morning i had already realized that there wouldn't be much time this evening to get everything done to be ready to ride tomorrow, so didn't want to spend time at a restaurant for supper. the grayline people not only recommended a great sub shop--ernies--they gave me a menu & (since the shop closed at 3 pm), offered to have me call them later from our noon stop to give them my & sari's order. they would then get the sandwiches from ernie's & have them ready for us to pick up at the grayline office when we returned from our tour after 5. can you believe such helpful folks!!?? we were overjoyed.
then it was off to yellowstone national park. yellowstone was the first national park....128 years ago. i hadn't been there for decades & decades. our guide, doug, was patient, entertaining, & very knowledgeable.
one of our first stops was at a beautiful waterfall. this picture doesn't give you an adequate idea of how far down from the edge of the parking lot the water was falling. that beagle felt the same way i did about getting near the edge. his name is sherlock & he's 12 years old.
doug promised us wildlife sightings during the day. at first we thot "oh boy, this'll be exciting to see herds of buffalo." that was before we realized that we'd see buffalo everywhere, including on the highway.
here's a shot of a few near our tour bus. notice they're molting this time of year. notice also that there are lots of buffalo (bison) calves. we got lots of warnings about getting too near the animals.
doug wouldn't even let us out of the bus when we might get too close to them.
i hadn't remembered how many "thermal features" yellowstone has. doug says 10,000. not only are there the large areas devoted to steaming & bubbling hot springs, steam vents, geysers, & mud pots, but it seems that around every corner there's steam rising from a large or small fissure in the ground.
here's doug at one of the areas we visited. there are board walks for people to follow, as even the ground in this area is very hot. the water in the springs & geysers itself is at or above boiling, sometimes above 200 degrees.
doug showed us one hot springs that used to be called celestine hot springs, but is now hot dog springs. (this is not a pretty story.) evidently in 1982 a man was visiting yellowstone with his dog. he opened the door of his car & the dog jumped out; it dashed over & into the hot springs. the man was stunned & without thinking, jumped in after the dog. they retrieved the man, who died later of 3rd-degree burns over 100% of his body. they never retrieved the dog.
in winter the bison tend to hover near the hot springs for warmth. you can tell; there's lots of buffalo dung all around the springs.
one of the startling features of the park was the vast expanse of burned-over area from the huge fires of 1988. all day we traveled in areas with sticks in every direction. evidently the fire is also a reforestation method. the fire heats up the acorns on the lodgepole pines, finally bursting them open to disburse the seeds inside. hence the acres & acres of barren sticks were also covered thickly with baby pines.
doug dropped us off at a cafe for lunch. our schedule was tight to make the next spouting of old faithful. unfortunately service at the cafe was very slow & we ended up dashing onto the bus & over to the old faithful site with not a minute to spare.
here's one of those classic old faithful shots; the bikers in the picture are, from left, patty fainer in the blue hat, sari in the red jacket, & dorothy in the purple shirt with blue vest. needless to say, i wasn't about to ask them to smile toward the camera.
what an impressive sight old faithful is. doug told us that it spouted about 175 feet into the air today; it varies. even on a day so early in the tourist season, there was an arc of hundreds & hundreds of people viewing this eruption of old faithful.
there was a sign on the boardwalk at old faithful that caught my eye. it pointed out that the boardwalk lumber is made from 100% recycled plastic, equivalent to 4,000,000 detergent bottles. one of the sponsors of the project is lever brothers. isn't that neat??!
we saw several waterfalls today, too. the most impressive was the lower falls. here's rose sitting on a rock with her back to the falls. the picture doesn't begin to portray the depth of the chasm. as usual, i wasn't getting very close to the edge. but those who did exclaimed at the beauty of the multicolored layers making up this "grand canyon of the yellowstone."
we looked way across to the top of the canyon wall on the other side & noticed a blinking light. doug told us that it was the spot where, yesterday, a fellow had neglected to adequately set the parking break on his RV & the camper started down into the canyon. it was saved from demolition only by a small tree. a crane was brought in to rescue it from its precipitous resting place. fortunately no one was in the vehicle at the time. what a splash that would have been. how strong those little trees are!
as we drove back into w.yellowstone the clouds were getting darker & darker. he dropped off people at various motels around town, then took sari & me to the grayline office to pick up her sandwiches. on the way back to our motel we stopped at a grocery store for a pint of chocolate milk to share, then just made it into the motel before the rains started pouring. sari & i really enjoyed our tuna-sandwich supper; the tuna was great & the whole wheat bread scrumptious. plus they put in lots of dark green leafy lettuce, tomato slices, & green onions. sure beat being out in the rain.
tomorrow we ride 73 miles to ennis. supposedly this will be an easy ride. surely something will crop up to make it more of a challenge.
Higher quality versions of the pictures from my trip are available here. If you would like copies of the original, full-size photos, or if you would like text-only versions of these daily reports e-mailed to you, feel free to e-mail my son Mark with your request. Stay tuned....

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