Sunday afternoon we drove from Santa Cruz to my parents' in Reno. Monday we drove from Reno to Hyram State Park in northern Utah, stopping briefly in Salt Lake City to have dinner with my cousin Dominic and his wife Holly and their family.
On Tuesday, Ann and I drove from the Hyram State Park campground to Jackson, Wyoming, through Idaho. It was a beautiful drive and only took a few hours. We spent most of the afternoon wandering around Jackson being touristy; visiting the little shops and whatnot. We got ourselves a campsite in the nearest KOA and signed up for a river rafting trip for Wednesday morning. Ann let me wander around in the local yarn store for a few minutes, and I bought a couple skeins of some Montana organic wool (it's heavenly…). One skein is for my secret pal and one is for me; remind me to make a scarf with it.
I saw an ad for the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers play being put on in the local theatre, and Ann actually seemed amenable to going, so I called and made a reservation for that as well.
The play turned out to be pretty good. It was in this teeny tiny little theatre that had been set up to look like it was built in the old west (hmm, maybe it actually WAS?). The actress who played Millie was really old, but she had a great voice. Adam wasn't as hunky as he is in the movie, nor were the other brothers, but hey, they were great actors (most of them). They left out the spring song, and the when you're in love song, but they sang all the others plus a few I didn't know. I really enjoyed myself. I don't know that Ann had quite as good a time as I did, but it was a lot of fun for me to see the play of a movie I know literally by heart.
Wednesday morning we got up and went river rafting with one of the local companies. I must say, while it was a lot of fun, I expected it to be a lot more fun. I expected it to be a lot more of a lot of things, actually. It was only about an hour long, and the rapids were only about class 2. But for my first whitewater rafting trip, it was pretty good. Ann and I sat at the front of the raft and paddled and got lots of water up our noses, and at one point I crawled up on the nose of the raft to "ride the bull," which involves hanging both feet off the front and hanging onto the raft by a small rope between your legs. It was awesome.
After that, we drove out of Jackson and into Teton National Park. We took some pictures of the Tetons and drove around a bit, then picked out a campground in the Lizard Creek campground, near the Jackson Lake. We spent the afternoon swimming and drinking Grand Teton Ale. It was the perfect ending to a fantastic day.
Thursday morning we got up (a bit later than intended) and drove from Teton Park into Yellowstone. We got a campsite in Bay Bridge around 11, set up the tent, and abandoned our luggage with it to set out and explore. We stopped first at a visitor's center and looked at some stuffed birds, then took about nine hours to drive 90 miles. We saw countless buffalo, a ton of pelicans, about 55 elk total (and one male with a pretty nice rack) which we initially thought were moose because we are dumb, one single female grizzly chillin on a hillside (got pictures of her), a momma grizzly and her two babies walking through some grass a bajillion miles away (sort of saw them with binoculars), a 12-year-old female black bear who was literally right next to the road (a ranger was standing in front of her yelling at the idiots to stay back and to For The Love of God Not Run Near The Bear), immediately after which we saw ANOTHER single black bear, but that one was much smaller (perhaps it was a juvenile?) and not surrounded by hordes of people . We also saw two coyotes, and a bunch of cranes, which we think were whooping cranes but hey, can you trust the girls who thought the elk were moose?, and total over the two days I think we saw nine bald eagles, all of them sitting.
Friday morning we got up early and had the entire day to spend exploring the park. We drove back up through the same area that the single female grizzly had been the day before, and wouldn't you know it, there were tons of people clogging the road again. So we jumped out and looked around with Ann's binoculars, and this time we could see, quite clearly, the same bear. We watched her for a while until she disappeared behind a ridge, and luckily instead of leaving immediately we decided to wait a few minutes to see if she came back. Much to our surprise, within three minutes a bear DID reappear, but it was a DIFFERENT female grizzly, and this one had a cub with her. We watched her for quite a while, and we could tell SHE was watching the single female (whom we could no longer see), but there were no conflicts. A ranger on the road told us they have the single female collared and know that she's two or three years old, and they suspect that she's the other bear's daughter, because mother bears don't normally allow other bears into their territories, and this one was quite obviously being tolerated, even if she wasn't being welcomed.
We got some good pictures of all three bears, though not at the same time. They were pretty close, and with the binoculars we were able to watch them in quite a bit of detail. They were all gorgeous creatures.
For the rest of Friday we drove around the main loop of Yellowstone, stopping to look for moose and to look at various geysers, mudpots, and fumaroles. We took many a picture of steaming ground. We stopped and saw Old Faithful, which was cool. It's pretty much exactly like what it looks like in videos.
We went back to the campsite early and took naps, then struck out again along the same grizzly road. The bears weren't in sight anymore, and no moose were forthcoming, so we turned around and headed back to camp just before dusk. Ann spotted something swimming in the river, so we pulled over really quickly and watched it swim toward us, going, "Is it a moose? Is it a bear? Is it an otter? What IS that??" It turned out to be an extremely fat male beaver, who pulled himself up onto the bank literally two feet in front of us, crawled into the underbrush directly next to us, and began to eat in an adorably gerbil-like fashion. We took about a hundred pictures of him.
While we were photographing the beaver, an elderly couple came over to tell us they'd been watching the beavers all day, and then filled us in on some park goings-on. There are no moose this year; I guess the food has run out in the visible areas or something, so they haven't seen a single moose. I don't know if that's official or if the moose population has declined, but at any rate it explained why we didn't see any. The couple also said they'd been watching a wolf pack all day, and let us look through their telescope thingy at the opposite river bank where the wolf pack is known to hang out, and where they had seen flashes of wolf twice earlier in the evening. We watched for about fifteen minutes, and I saw a flash of dark, but I think it was a buffalo and not a wolf. Still, it was kind of cool to know that, even if we couldn't see them, there were wolves right across the river from us.
We left Yellowstone around 8 this morning and drove across Wyoming. We're now in a KOA just over the border in South Dakota. Tomorrow we'll go see the wind caves and Mt. Rushmore, and then I suppose there will be more driving. I'm wiped; we drove nine hours today.
Time for swimming and then maybe a shower?
Also, it's the weirdest of things, but I really, really miss Connecticut. I miss lab, I miss my friends, I miss my apartment, I miss being close to New York, I miss the Green, I miss the shops on Broadway--OH MY GOD! I'm becoming an east coaster!
No, really though. I miss New Haven.