Toothbrush and mouth wash were packed (we are a dentist family after all!) along with the munchies, as we readied ourselves for the nearly 4000 mile (twelve states) long trip from Buffalo, NY to Yellowstone National Park recently. Our first halt-Chicago.
Reaching late at night did not stop us from sailing out to Buddy Guy’s Legends , labeled the best blues club just outside The Hilton, downtown. The music was smooth and loud, the cocktails were mixed and the dancing was mesmerizing. Maybe it was the alcohol, I loved every bit of it. The next day we hopped on and off double decker buses in a bid to see the Windy City. Saw the now historic Grant Park, ate a deep dish pizza at Gino’s East and hot dogs Chicago style, on the pier. Did the touristy picture deal in the John Hancock building and even bought the package.
We hit Chicago....running
We then drove over to the home of a friend, who I had never met or seen before and spend a most magical evening with the family. I run a roaring Facebook fan page for my High School, St Joseph's Convent, Bhopal (yes, of the Union Carbide tragedy) India and have been making these absolutely fantastic inter-generational, multicultural connections all over the world based upon a shared history! We had a blast reliving old days, marveling at the new phenomenon of finding unknown friends lurking in all corners and discussing the challenges of parenthood so far from the country of origin (India), sans the support of the greater family. Next day, garden omelets in belly…water bottles filled, we pushed off! The first leg of the journey had been promising...
Next up was Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The famous Ponderosa Pines with black bark stood tall turning the hillside a stunning but characteristic dark black green. As the morning fog lifted the famous four faces sculpted by Borglum looked out somber and pensive as ever. My Nikon went nuts trying coax out a different mood from them but they did not budge.
Black Hills of South Dakotaand Mount Rushmore below
Not satisfied with the controversy surrounding the memorial we drove off to see Crazy Horse Memorial. Charged $27 for entry vs $ 11 for Mount Rushmore, we learnt that even though it was/is intended to be grander than Mount Rushmore and has the support of Lakota chiefs, the foundation has rejected federal funds, the project was started in 1948, and lies incomplete.
We reached Yellowstone National Park in the dead of the night. Driving at 25 miles per hour along roads which had billowing smoke, passing dark figures and roadside posts it seemed like a two hour Hitchcock movie. Finally we arrived at the historic Old Faithful Inn- our destination. Designed by Robert C Reamer in 1903-04, this was a mother of all log cabins! At 2 a.m. the lobby was deserted and allowed us a fantastic view of this legendary structure and saw the roaring Old Faithful geyser go off early next morning outside the Inn.
Outside the Old Faithful Inn
We spent three days sans TV, telephones or any modern electrical devices, feasting on the myriad thermal features, with the Mammoth Hot Springs taking away the prize, the plants, old buildings, frozen lakes, mud pots, hot springs, snow capped mountain ranges, seven grizzlies, hundreds of bison, elk, geese, ravens, few bald eagles, pelicans, one winter hare, coyote and the famous Lodgepole pines. Adding anymore to the already sumptuous descriptions of the park would be superfluous. Let it be said we loved every single moment; the hikes, the ride on the historic yellow bus, the hikes with and without the rangers, the photographic opportunities. I suggest everyone to join at least one or two guided tours and spend the rest of the time roaming as you please. Nothing quite like it!
A hot spring in the Artist Paint Pot area
Our seventh bear...up close and personal....
The idea that way back in 1872 even before the country had been consolidated there were thinkers in the land who passed the law establishing Yellowstone National Park to be preserved for the “benefit and enjoyment of the people” and its wonders maintained in their pristine form, is mind-blowing today. The government brought together with scientists, artists, mapmakers, photographers and one doctor (Ferdinand Hayden) who loved the wilderness for the sake of future fellow citizens!!! Concept!
Nature observed from the historic yellow bus
No journey can be complete without a twist somewhere ….as we drove away to the South end of the park leading to Teton National Park my husband realized that he had left his wallet at a shop in Mammoth Springs at the North end of the park. That is nearly a 2 hour drive and it was 5 pm! No ranger in sight, no phone number. The internet was not working rendering all 3G connected devices useless. One lone car passed us, turned around and a gentleman came out .Turned out to be a ranger. He gave us one number to call in 5 miles when connection was possible. We did. Long story short, several numbers later we knew the wallet had been found and was being returned to the Ranger’s office for safe keeping.
Upon return, a simple brown envelope awaited us from National Park Service U.S. Department of Interior. They had returned the wallet to us, along with a letter hoping that we had had fun and would return. Now I don’t know about anyone else but when I saw the letter, I knew for certain that my tax dollars was being spent well at Yellowstone National Park. The Park was a natural wonder but this was icing on the cake.
To all those who decry the government I say…chill folks! Only when one has been the beneficiary of such courtesy can one fully appreciate the silent ways in which the government does work.
In the cacophony of things going wrong and people screaming there is something to be said about the ways that the government does work and the hushed silence around it. An aware citizenry is a strong citizenry but let us not throw away everything in this frenzied popular cry against the government.
I say…. Let us cut the waste but let us also recognize the truly precious in the land and then strive our hardest to keep it for our future fellow citizens. Let us discover who we are, what we stand up for, and what makes us tick! Hats off!
Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces...
Some of the 10,ooo geothermal features in YNP
A random hot spring, Yellowstone Lake still partly frozen, snow-capped mountains in the distance.
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This article is published in "The Indian American" August 2011 -a featured article. The photographs in this blog are taken by me and are new. The editing has been tightened and a few details added.