Don’t enter Yellowstone in late October without tire chains. The signs were very clear about this, but the sky was very clear as well.
After visiting Cicely, we drove through northern Idaho which is stunning with its mountains and forests. Looking back, the peaks weren’t terribly high there, but I did wonder if Sean’s Corolla was going to make it up some of those rises. It was slow at times, but it always reached the top.
We wanted to see Old Faithful so we headed to Yellowstone National Park. In spite of all of the warnings, we decided to go into the park that afternoon with no tire chains. Surely the weather wouldn’t change on us. We wouldn’t be there that long, just long enough to see the geyser.
We saw lots of wildlife in the park: deer, buffalo, even a coyote in the parking lot that seemed to be unafraid of us. Perhaps people have been feeding it so it was hoping for something from us. Coyotes were often destroyed in the early 1900’s because they sometimes preyed on livestock. Their ability to adapt and the elimination of wolves have helped their numbers to increase.
Wolves had been released into the park in the mid to late 1990’s, and numbered at least 272 in 2002, but we did not see any on this trip.
Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where buffalo (bison) have lived continuously since prehistoric times. The park has the largest bison population on public land, about 2,200 in 2002, and are among the few herds that have not been interbred with cattle.
We arrived at the site of Old Faithful, a cone which doesn’t erupt quite so faithfully as legend would have it do. The interval between eruptions averaged about 45 minutes at the time, but could certainly be longer. The interval has increased over the years, possibly due to earthquakes affecting water levels underground. Between 1983 and 1994, probes were lowered into the geyser to measure temperature and pressure. At 72 feet, the temperature was 244 degrees. During an eruption, the water temperature at the vent has been measured at 204 degrees and the steam temperature above 350 degrees.
In the early days of the park, Old Faithful was often used as a laundry. People would place their garments into the crater while it was quiet. When Old Faithful erupted, the garments would be ejected thoroughly washed. Cotton and linen fabrics were not harmed, but wool would be shredded.
While waiting, we walked on the boardwalk around the geyser area and read the signs that gave some history of Old Faithful and the many other geysers and hot spots in the park. The wait was worthwhile, although it was getting late in the afternoon and we really needed to be on our way.
I had never seen the Grand Tetons, so we planned to stop in Jackson Hole, WY for the night. Normally, this would have taken about two hours, so we weren’t concerned. However, it started snowing not long after we started driving. Before long, it was dark and the snow was blowing fairly hard. It was difficult to see the side of the road or any oncoming traffic – not that there was any. There also was no restaurant, no gas station, and no lodging that we could see, and no tire chains on that little Corolla. Sean was driving, and I was happy to let him do so.
It was well after dark when we arrived in Jackson, but we were able to find lodging and plenty of restaurants to pick from.
The next morning, the Grand Tetons were fogged in, and we weren’t interested in staying around for the fog to clear. It’s an excuse to go back.