Having done so few of these posts, I now know why I would make a horrible writer. My thoughts tend to be fleeting, and if I don't somehow jot them down (lately its been via iphone voice memo) then they're gone, at least until the next time they decide to randomly pop up again. Its neither efficient nor conducive to regular writing, but its something I'll have to deal with as time goes on.
Yellowstone was everything people said it would be, though I didn't expect it to be as large as it actually is. To give those of you who haven't been there some idea, the park's roads are arranged roughly in a figure 8 with 6 main attractions, two at the top, two in the middle, and two at the bottom. It is about 20 miles to get from any one attraction to the next, which means at least 30-40 minutes of driving (barring any wildlife roadblocks...). I ended up trying to see as much as I could in the two total days I was there and I think I hit most of the major spots. My goal going into this was to photograph waterfalls. Yes... out of all the things to take pictures of at Yellowstone, I picked that one. That meant an early morning hike around the south end of the Lower Falls, and various stops along drive for all the rest of the falls. Lower Falls was obviously the best, though I think Tower Fall would have been great had they actually had the trail to the base open. Wraith Falls was quite disappointing, and Mystic Falls, while interesting, was just too far away to get a really good composition.
Yellowstone was also the first place on this trip I tried camping, and I learned a few important things:
1) Never buy the cheapest item (of anything). Maybe the 2nd cheapest, or 3rd cheapest, but never ever the cheapest. It may not seem like a big difference when its hanging up in the store, but I guarantee you'll feel the difference once you put it to actual use (I'm look at you, stupid tent and sleeping bag). My only worthwhile purchase also happened to the most expensive, which was the sleeping pad. Self inflating sleeping pads are AMAZING.
2) I feel conflicted about car camping. On one hand I'm not about to pick up a frame pack and go backpacking into the wilderness for a week, but on the other hand after seeing what people brought to the campground I felt kind of ashamed for sharing the grounds with them. There were of course the multitude of RVs, campers, land yachts etc, but the one that truly took the cake was a medium sized camper. Now, it wasn't overly large, or overly ostentatious, but as you get closer, you realized something was amiss. Then you see those familiar words... DIRECT TV. Yes... This family thought "hey, while we're out pretending to be in the wilderness, why don't we catch a game or two?" And this wasn't a camper mounted antenna (as cool as that would have looked) but rather a portable antenna on a tripod. Me? I didn't even have a lantern. Just a tarp, tent, mat, sleeping bag, and iphone (alright... so I was glad I had cell reception at the camp site...).
3) Rain + camping = ???? That equation can go a lot of different ways. For one thing, I'm not sure of the effectiveness of a tarp during a torrential down poor. It tends to pool water in all the worst places, and while I didn't get (very) wet, any clothes that ended up near the edge of the tent (like my pants) sure did. I unfortunately didn't have enough rope (or foresight...) to rig up a shade for my tent, but undoubtedly that would have helped quite a bit.
All of that just means I gotta return a bunch of stuff when I finally get to another Sports Authority (which is all the way in Minneapolis).
PS. I've stopped trying to post pictures here as there are just far too many. Please click on the photostream on the right, as it will probably be synced pretty well with the latest post.
(This post will continue, but I have to check out before I'm forced to stay another day at the Bavarian Inn, which actually was a rather pleasant place in Custer, SD)