Day Eleven – Geothermo

More photos here.

Our first (and only) unapologetically tourist day.  Staying outside of West Yellowstone makes this easy as the town, while not a full-on tourist trap, is the cheeseball flag-waving souvenir capital of the park. So we embraced it for the day and headed out with a centerpiece destination of Old Faithful, surrounded by other geological sites both famous and WTF. 

But first, of course, we watched the destruction of Yellowstone scene from 2012 to set the mood. Let me note here that this trip (and many before) has been made so much more fun with the use of the newly-renamed GuideAlong. It’s a non-linear, location-based, vehicle-centric audio guide for national parks and other scenic drives. Completely offline too, which is key in the connectivity deserts we’ve been in of late. And for the spaces in between the major destinations we use Autio to provide some insight into just what we’re passing through. Add in Roadside America and Atlas Obscura and there is no lack of information on bizarre Americana. (I’ll do a full post on all the gear, tech, and vehicle shenanigans when the trip is complete.)

We saw every aspect of the geothermal oddity that is the Yellowstone Supervolcano: boiling mud pools, hot and colorful mineral springs, and geysers to be sure. Old Faithful has changed a lot since I was there as a kid. The geyser still spews pretty consistently, but the infrastructure around it — yikes. It’s a city unto itself now. We were lucky to catch the pressure differential give way without waiting too long and, yep, it’s pretty cool. From there decamped for an off-the-beaten path site outside the park in the US Forest Service-managed area known as Earthquake Lake (Quake Lake to those in the know). It’s the site of massive destruction in 1959 when a 7.5 magnitude temblor rocked the whole area and basically sent a mountain crashing down on sleeping campers. The wreckage killed dozens, stranded many more, and created a new lake. There’s a decidedly un-touristy and lovely information center (and memorial to the dead) run by the Forest Service. There’s even the most unique ghost town I’ve ever seen, the partially submerged cabins (and lots of decades-old half-swamped dead trees) that sit where they were before the waters backed up from the landslide.

The trailer is getting a little college dorm room-y, so my niece made a lovely anything-in-the-fridge stir fry. We made s’mores, fired up the outdoor projector and settled in a for a movie under the stars. A very nice night before our early wake-up to switch our Yellowstone attention from geothermal to zoological tomorrow. Importantly, the most anticipated wildlife sighting of the trip also happens tomorrow: The Arrival of The Mothers.