Posted by: George | July 10, 2010


July 8, 2010 (morning)

After breakfast at Dornan’s, I headed into Yellowstone.

I was driving along, looking at the view, thinking, I don’t remember the road into Yellowstone being so hilly. About this time, I heard a squealing sound. I thought I might have a flat tire, then I realized that it was my water bottle. After my bike ride yesterday, I left my water bottle (the one I use for cycling) in the cup holder of the car. The bottle has a valve that opens when the bottle is squeezed. The valve keeps water from splashing out, but it opens when you squeeze the bottle to take a drink. The change in air pressure was forcing air through the valve, making the squealing sound.

I started to think that the road didn’t look right, so I stopped by a man working on a road crew and said, “This is the road into Yellowstone, right?”

“You got to turn around. You’re going south. You need to go north.”

“I thought I was going north.”

“You got to turn around. You’re going south. You need to go north.”

In this area, part of the Teton National forests, there are basically only two roads, and I had managed to get on the wrong one. I didn’t mind so much, even though it was going to mean a 45 minute delay round trip, because the scenery was stunning. I was, however, hoping to get ahead of the day-trippers.

Many of the day-trippers stay in hotels in Jackson Hole. They drive into Yellowstone in the morning, stopping every time they see an animal. Once they hit Old Faithful, they wait for the next eruption; then, they turn around and drive back to their hotel and spend their evening looking at art galleries.

On one trip into Yellowstone, day-trippers blocked the road for 45 minutes to watch a rack of elk antlers. Just the rack. The bull elk was grazing behind some bushes, and only his rack was visible.

Later on that trip, I drove to the Mammoth area, hiked about six miles into the Yellowstone Trail, which runs along the Yellowstone River, camped, and then hiked out the next day. As I was returning to the trailhead, early in the morning, I came up on a herd of about ninety elk. Whenever I came to within about a hundred yards of them, they ran down the trail ahead of me. For about three miles, the elk and I repeated this pattern.

I don’t mean to be critical of day-trippers. There is not a bad way to visit Yellowstone, unless you harm the environment or disrespect the animals. However, if all you do is drive down the road, stop and take pictures, and visit Old Faithful, you have missed much of what the park has to offer. Even a short hike, a few miles into a trail, can expose you to things you would never see from a car.

In the attached photo of day-trippers, notice that one guy has his back to the elks, camera in his right hand, so he will be in the photo. This reminds me of a time when I was going through the National Gallery in DC. A guy was quickly walking through the museum, with his wife trailing behind, camera in hand. He looked at the description of each painting. If he recognized the artist, he would stand in front of the painting and have his wife take a picture.

Day-Tripper Festival


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