(Be sure to read & check out the photos from my post about our first day in Yellowstone below.)
On day two we awoke, partook of the continental breakfast at the Best Western in West Yellowstone--it was sorely inadequate, the only unfortunate aspect of our stay--and once again headed into the Park. There were several cars on the road; though the day began at 25 degrees and climbed eventually on a rollercoaster track to 50, it was sunny, and the Park was filled with fly fishermen and families. Ashley and I both decided that we'd never, ever come back in the summer when the Park sees almost 3,000 visitors a day.
Once inside the Park, we headed out on the Firehole Loop, the south loop of the Park advised to us by the friendly Sudoku-playing park ranger from Friday. We followed along the Firehole and Madison Rivers, saw more waterfalls, insanely colorful and often stinky geo-thermal features, great herds of bison and elk, Old Faithful erupting to cheers of onlookers, the dizzying heights of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the blue infinity of Yellowstone Lake, volcanic mud, a couple getting married on a hill high above the winding Yellowstone River, and so many geysers hissing steam that it looked as if the world was on fire. We watched a fox on the hunt, and sunset once again take to the sky above and behind the white-capped Absaroka Range.
We ended our day at a local pizza parlor, drank wine in our hotel room and watched a crazy sci-fi flick on TV (I stayed up, a little mesmerized after living without television for 3 and 1/2 weeks), and looked at the day's photos blown up on my laptop. The next morning, thanks to my trusty Rough Guide of Yellowstone, we ate pancakes at the Running Bear Pancake House--another local favorite--filled the P.T. Cruiser up with $3.15 per gallon gasoline, and headed up Hwy 191 for Bozeman.
I'd picked that route back because the highway follows along the incredible Gallatin River, where the movie A River Runs Through It was filmed. The river, and the valley, were gorgeous, wide and flaxen, filled with red willow and embraced by steep mountains on both sides. We curled through mountain passes, took a detour to check out Big Sky and the ski resort there, and eventually made our way back to Belgrade, where the Bozeman Airport is. I dropped Ash off with time to spare, and we said goodbye to our weekend adventure.
On the way back to Basin I considered the past couple of days, and my time in southwestern Montana. Right now, the whole experience defies my descriptive and comprehensive powers. Our time in Yellowstone was breath-catching, heart-stealing, making me so proud and happy to be an American, and so hopeful that present and future generations will be able to see the value of the wild, our sacred obligation to it, and the hope involved in preserving our unique natural landscape. What glory there is in standing in a place encompassed by wilderness, and breathing it in knowing that its power lies in survival, in merely existing. I'm so thankful that I got a chance to be there.
Writing this, I'm taking a break from packing. I'll head out of Basin early tomorrow morning for the last time. I'm hopeful that after I get back from N.C., I'll eventually be able to write a post script sort of entry to the trip. Thank you all, so much, for reading along, and for supporting me with good thoughts and energy while I've been away.