“Is that it?” the disgruntled-looking lady asked after watching Old Faithful’s show of hydraulics and vapors. “Yes, mam. Did it not meet your expectations?” the park ranger patiently asked. “If that’s all there is to it then yes, I am disappointed!!” she replied.
Apparently one of two things happened. She either showed up at the “official” time of 11:04 a.m. and just caught the tail-end of the show – which started about five minutes earlier – or she had something much grander in mind. Who knows? I, for one, was still impressed.
Like a bunch of bovines being herded through an airport, the Old Faithful crowd –Yellowstone hosted 916,166 visits in August 2017, up 8.93 percent from August 2016 – and I started shuffling along the two-mile-long boardwalk around the Upper Geyser Basin. After an hour and a half of seeing one type of natural phenomenon or another, I noticed a crowd on one of the upper avenues waiting (I thought) for a more distant view of Old Faithful erupting again. I parked myself at the end of the queue, and was surprised to hear a nearby geyser start to burp and gurgle in preparation for its big show. Although I was not lined up for the best picture, I was close enough to witness a powerful display that would have impressed even Ms. Disappointed. I hope she was there to see it.
The Unexpected: Showering most of the crowd, the Beehive Geyser is named after it 4′ high cone. It looks modest when quiet, however it is one of the most powerful geysers in the park. The water can shoot up to 200′ in the air and lasts four to five minutes. It isn’t as regular as Old Faithful, but erupts a couple times a day. I felt pretty lucky to be at the right place at the right time.
This summer I am trying to learn to STOP, LISTEN, OBSERVE. The few times I’ve managed to do it I have been rewarded with amazing glimpses of nature in action. I got to watch Sandhill cranes and an owl along the Yellowstone River at Mallard’s Landing; a mountain goat scampering down the hill opposite the hostel; and the magnificent swan dance you see below.
As I was settling onto a comfy rock close to the edge of Swan Lake a big wing-flapping noise roused my attention in time to see the resident pair of swans flying toward me. They landed nearby, then started stretching, preening and doing yoga poses before taking a nap with head tucked under a wing, standing on one leg (last picture). What a gift!
My various trips to the Park have granted me viewings of more waterfalls, geysers (foreign folks pronounce it “geezers”, and yes, this fall there are a lot of us geezers there too), bubbling mud pots, bison, coyotes, eagles, osprey, Canada geese, elk, wildflowers and mountain tops then you can shake a walking stick at. Only one bear and no wolves, thus far. These critters are usually found with a spotting-scope and far away from the traffic. Maybe on my next visit?
And as the season draws to a close I am sad, but grateful, for the golden time I’ve spent in Montana. Being a 10 minute drive from the north entrance to the Park gave me opportunities most tourists miss. The more I wander around Yellowstone National Park, the less I know. It is a place one could easily explore for months – even years – and never get tired of seeing nature at her most raw.
When you visit a National Park, forest, wildlife preserve, lake, river or any unpaved wilderness plan to get out of the car, walk around a little, explore, or just find a meadow and sit for a spell. Wait for the unexpected – it will meet you wherever you are!
Boiling River near the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Time to soak!
Stay with me as I pick up my petticoats and meander south. It may take a few weeks, but I’ll update you as soon as I find out where the winds blow me next. In the meantime remember: The best way to meet your expectations is to be open to the unexpected. Thank you for following along!