Snow, blast it!
So. Five days before today the temperature was 99F degrees. Today I woke up to snow. Not horrendous amounts, but enough that I had to scrape it off of my car before I could set out for the morning. I won’t tell the story about snow on July 4th in the park when I was small, or mention that I have now been snowed on in the park at some point in every month from May to October, except August. Which is sort of ironic, because Repeating History‘s hero Charley got snowed on in the park in August. Very late August, but still. Anyway, I just won’t mention any of that now.
By the time I left West Yellowstone and headed into the park it was more sleet than snow, and it was blowing sideways, but the roads remained clear and just a bit wet. In spite of the weather I decided to get out and walk the boardwalk at the Fountain Paint Pots, where I saw yellow monkeyflowers blooming along the edge of the boardwalk, as well as perpetually spouting Clepsydra Geyser and lots of paint pots and pools. My jeans were soaked on one side and dry on the other by the time I got back to the car due to the wind, but it could have been worse.
I skipped Midway Geyser Basin, because when you combine two hot springs the size of Excelsior Geyser Crater and Grand Prismatic Spring and weather in the forties, you basically end up with steam thick enough to cut with a knife. For the entire length of the boardwalk. Besides, my jeans were still damp.
The weather seemed to be improving slightly by the time I got to Biscuit Basin, however, so I did get out and walk there, in the company of a group of tourists who sounded eastern European of some kind to my ears — Russian, maybe? One of the young women was wearing a t-shirt, leggings, and sandals, along with a Jayne hat. I shivered just looking at her. The snow was beginning to collect on the boardwalks, and I’m not sure there are many surfaces as slippery as jugwalk (planks made out of wood pulp and recycled pop bottles) with snow on it. But I it was nice to see Sapphire Pool again, especially since every mention of the park during the 1959 earthquake that I’d seen in my research was replete with its magnificent eruptions in the aftermath. I’d have loved to see that.
So I finally wended my way to the Upper Geyser Basin, aka the home of Old Faithful (the link goes to the live, streaming webcam). I had been planning to spend this day out in the geyser basin, but I was cold and damp and needed at the very least to warm up and dry out before I went walking outdoors again. The snow had warmed up just enough to become a cold, penetrating drizzle, but it was still pretty miserable. So I bought a cookie in the lodge and ate it while gazing wistfully out the big windows, then headed over to the bright shiny new visitor center that opened in August of 2010.
It’s about time that the Upper Geyser Basin acquired a decent visitor center. And it has a virtual version, too, if you’re interested in checking that out (the introductory video is a hoot). The old visitor center dated from Mission 66, I think. At any rate, its amenities included a ranger desk, an auditorium, and a small bookstore. Not a single exhibit. The new visitor center has a whole enormous room full of exhibits, many of them interactive, telling all about how thermal features work and why they are where they are and, well, let’s just say that both my museum curator persona and my inner Yellowstone junkie were vastly impressed.
So that gave me time to dry out. Lot of good it did me. I went out walking around Geyser Hill, and about half an hour into my stroll, slipped and fell flat on my tuckus, and covered myself in the sleet/dirt/etc., that was on the jugwalk. At least I didn’t fall off the jugwalk.
I decided enough was enough, and took my cold, wet, dirty self off to the showers at the lodge, then to the laundromat at the Snow Lodge (two different places), and got me and my stuff cleaned up. That was the first time I had to wash that coat. I’m glad the manufacturer meant that “machine washable” tag.
After that, I checked into my lodge cabin and holed up, hoping for better weather the next day. It was my last day in the park, after all.
If you like my travel writing, you might enjoy my fiction set in Yellowstone:
Repeating History, “A GRAND yarn you can’t put down.” Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures