Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Those Promised Details

OR: In Which I Am Charged By A Buffalo And Live To Tell The Tale.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

So I'm assuming you all saw all saw my facebook status from Sunday.  And I know I should leave the big story for last or whatever, but I'm leaving it smack in the middle just like when it happened.  Strap in kids, this is going to take a couple of days to write and I'm betting you'll need an hour or more to read.

First, a few observations:

1) Camping is a lot more enjoyable when you have a tent you can stand up in.  And this is not just me remembering being a little kid going camping and standing up.  The big two-room tent we used is tall enough for Dad to stand up in.  So it's plenty tall.  Much easier for doing . . . well, everything.

2) On the other hand, it's a lot more pleasant sleeping on an air mattress than the ground.

3) Never go on a trip and let my dad drive.  He'll take turns way to sharply and tip fully loaded coolers over onto you and nearly give you a concussion with the frying pan that comes flying off the top of said cooler.  And it will be traumatic.  And painful.

4) I have a pretty decent body image for a girl, especially considering everything in the world would have us all believing we're supposed to think horribly of ourselves in order to be appropriately feminine.  That said, I hate the way I look in posed pictures.  I just always look . . . off, somehow.  I have no problem with candid pictures or deliberately silly poses, but the in more "formal" posed pictures I just look weird.

5) I had the worst/weirdest allergies of my life this weekend.  Like nothing I've ever had before.  Now that said, I've only had allergy issues a few times in my life - another one of those lucky genetic health things I'm growing into.  Seriously, between the two sides of my family I won the genetic jackpot . . . if by jackpot you actually mean crap-pot.  Anyway, I have no idea what was getting to me, and it was totally hit or miss if I would have issues at any place that we stopped, but about half the time I would get out of the car and within minutes my eyes would be stinging like I was chopping the world's largest, most potent onion ever and the tears would gush like I was a human version of Old Faithful.  Seriously, within minutes I looked something like a cross between this and this - except without the traumatized face because I was perfectly calm and even enjoying myself . . . except for the fact that instead of sweating off all the water I was drinking in a normal way, I was sweating it out through my eyeballs.

Long story short: 4 + 5 = there are only two words to describe how I look in the pictures from this trip.  Wretched, and ghastly.  I stayed mostly behind the camera.

So the drive up was mostly uneventful, except for the fact that Dad drove the car like he was thirty years younger and on a motorcycle . . . oh, and apparently he was successful in dumping a cooler on my mother back in the day so I guess old habits die hard.  Anyway.  Successes on this trip include introducing Luke to the awesomeness that is Howard Spring -

And the slightly belated rite of passage that is setting up a tent - 

And it was good. :-)

Friday morning our first major stop was a "hike" to Harlequin Lake, which is something we'd never done before.  While it is the most back country-ish sort of excursion I've ever had, it's only about a twenty minute walk (although the uphill part is a little steep) and I'm pretty sure you'd be able to see the lake (which is really more like a pond) from the road except for the trees because it's really close.

And can I just take a moment to say what is up with all the trees?  They totally ruin the view!  And I'm sorry, maybe it's just because I'm a child of the 90s when it comes to Yellowstone, but when I think of the park, the image I see in my head looks like this:

Or maybe this:

But absolutely not this:

Dude - that's my dad.  Those trees are freaking tall!  And in some places where you used to be able to see way off in the distance all you can see now is trees lining the side of the road, noticeably more massive than even just six years ago.  Not cool.

Anyway.  Harlequin Lake.  We decide to do it because my cooler-dumping dad read something on the internet about ranger-led walks to the lake at 10:00 am, so there we were at 9:50 am at the parking lot across the road wondering where the ranger and all the other people were, and at 10:05 we figured no one was showing so we went by ourselves.  But not before watching a buffalo wander his way from a safe distance to a few hundred yards away from the car.


Also - I'd just like to take this moment to say remind you that we were at Harlequin Lake on Friday.  Saturday Luke and I found an information board at our campsite telling everyone about the ranger-led walks to Harlequin Lake at 10:00 am . . . every Monday.  Not sure if it's a reading comprehension fail or a putting accurate information on the internet fail, but there is a big fat fail in there somewhere.

But anyway.  We walked/hiked to the lake, and it was lovely, and you can see all the pictures on facebook because I'll be putting them up right after I finally get this finished and posted.

Anyway.  Both going in and coming back we kind of separated a little bit because Mom and Luke hike slow and Dad and I hike fast (comparatively, at least).  And coming back I decided to take a few pictures of the way-bigger-than-they-should-be trees so I stopped and Dad kept going, so we were all sorts of slightly spread out at the end of the trail coming back to the road.

So I get out of the tree line, which is seriously a pretty much perfectly straight line of trees about ten or fifteen feet off the road.  Right by the road is a sign that marks the trail's head, and I had the genius idea to take pictures of all the signs so I could remember which place was which when we got back (and also be a little lazy when it comes to captioning them on facebook.  I took over 300 pictures, and there would be more except I forgot to bring an extra memory card so I had to delete some to make room for others).  So I'm right by the road taking a picture, and Luke and mom are just coming out of the trees, and dad's already across the road when suddenly he's (quietly) yelling "Hey!" at us and it registers that it's a quiet yell, but it makes no sense because why would he be being quiet unless there's an animal around and then I turn around and look up and HOLY CRAP THAT BUFFALO IS GALLOPING AND COMING RIGHT AT ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  THAT BUFFALO IS CHARGING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now.  I know what to do to avoid a bear attack.  And I know what to do on the off chance that a bear does attack.  And I know all the stupid things stupid people do to get themselves charged by a buffalo.  And I do not do them.  And since I do not do them I have never felt the need to know what to do when charged by a buffalo because I am not one of those stupid people who feel the need to try and get a picture of their kid petting a WILD animal that weighs 20,000 times what the two of them do combined.  So in one of those insta-seconds-that-feel-like-it-lasts-three-lifetimes I'm trying to think - obviously running away is out, he runs tons faster than me . . . but could I sprint off in another direction at the last second, like the stupid characters in Prometheus should have instead of trying to outrun a rolling space donut?  (seriously, that part of the movie bugs the crap out of me.  seen it twice and both times I just wanted to scream at them to run ANY other direction!)  Apparently the right answer was back into the trees because he wouldn't have come crashing through them - but while that was a matter of merely backing up a few steps for some people, for me it was a question of can I run fifteen feet between me and the trees faster than he can run the hundred yards or so between me and him?  And while that might be a fascinating question for a philosophy student who just discovered Zeno's Paradox when it's an actual real-life situation . . . not so much.

The good news is that the buffalo must have just gotten some major bug bite or something that he had to take care of, because in less than a tenth of the time it's taken you to read the last couple of paragraphs he stops his directly-at-me-for-no-reason charge (I swear we made eye contact) and drops into a buffalo wallow in the grass between the road and the pull-out and rolls around like he's some sort of freaking puppy or something.  Our hearts all start beating again and we cross the road to hear that Dad saw him come through right between our car and the tree we parked it under.

So.  Just for a little perspective I drew you all a totally-not-anywhere-near-scale diagram of more or less what happened, and where we were.  The red line is (kind of) how the buffalo ran.

It was crazy, y'all.  And that space between the tree and the car?  That part is to scale.

See?  Hard to believe that mirror is still attached to the car, isn't it?

And as with any animal sighting (especially so close to the road) there was an almost immediate traffic jam with people slowing down or pulling in to where we were to take pictures.  Since by this point I could breathe again I took a few too. (and now that I'm safely sitting on my couch I wish I had thought to take a few right after he plopped down in the wallow because they would have been awesome.)

That's no trick of forced perspective there, kids.  Luke's at the car, about a hundred yards away the buffalo is just chilling and no more than fifty yards past that is the road we just crossed and it's full of cars stopping for a moment to take a picture of the buffalo WHO NEARLY KILLED ME.

I think I have every right to be melodramatic.  It may have only actually lasted about three seconds, but they were three traumatizing seconds.

Anyway, here's another close up view.

Totally doesn't even care that he just took, like, five years off my life.  Jerk.

So we all caught our breath and went on with our day and hit a few trails and about died of heat stroke because it was something like a thousand degrees hotter than is normal for up there.  And then we hit Mammoth Hot Springs and that was just depressing because there are only, like four hot springs left and the rest have dried up and it mostly just looks dead.  Because it mostly just is.  Dead, I mean.  If you really want to see something sad I'll post the pictures I took on facebook, but for my blog, behold its former creamsicle-colored glory.

Also: the Mammoth elk herd is still around.  I can't remember a single visit to Yellowstone that there were not elk just chillaxin' in this very spot.

*Not zoomed in.  How awesome is that?

In other news, the rest of trip was rather boring, comparatively speaking.  When you start your vacation with a near-death experience it can really only go downhill from there, but it was a highly enjoyable ride down.  We finally got up to the Teddy Roosevelt Arch at the north entrance, which we'd never done before.

And when we were heading back in to the park from the arch we actually got to see sheep which, like, never happens. (pics on facebook)

And we picked up a fun little book in which Lacey discovered that there's actually kind of a lot of things we never did when we were making our (practically) weekly trips when I was a kid.  The book really needs maps though, because we went searching for this one haunted grave, but the directions were just vague enough that we couldn't find it . . . and then we get home and I googled it yesterday only to find out that we were tantalizingly close when we went off in another direction.  Blargh.

Luke found his own buffalo wallow.  And used it.  :-)

We crossed the Divide a half dozen times or so.

And I looked ghastly and wretched and allergy-ish.

And there were plenty of animals and herds of animals to be seen.  And of course, along with them plenty of stupid people and herds of stupid people to roll your eyes at and briefly consider sticking around to see if this will be the day that the elk with the massive rack decides to use said rack.

And of course, no one is allowed to leave the park on their first visit without stopping at Artist Point.  It is seriously the most amazing spot I've ever seen anywhere.  It is impossible to take a bad picture of this view.

See?  Doesn't it just look like a bunch of movie extras wandering around on set or something?  This spot is BEAUTIFUL.  There's a reason it's the most photographed spot in the park.  There's a reason people spend all day there, sunup to sundown, just planting their camera on a tripod and taking pictures every twenty minutes or so.  And there are just. no. words. None at all, to describe that reason.

Sure, you think it looks good in pictures.  But until you see it in person, I promise -  you don't Get It.  I mean, seriously.  I took that picture.  On my cheap little point-and-shoot that I bought five years ago.  It looks like it was taken by a professional with some fancy pants camera and intended to be a postcard shot, right?  A-MA-ZING.

(also - one thing you're sure to notice whilst going through all the pictures is that I have a major thing for waterfalls.  And for playing with the zoom on my camera.)

Anyway.  We hit up that other Yellowstone staple and only had to wait about 45 minutes for Old Faithful to erupt (video on facebook) but mom had a major migraine so we cut things short a day, which meant no Riverside or Grotto Geysers or Morning Glory Pool - sad!  Because I seriously would have plopped myself down and waited the full six hours for a Riverside eruption.  Honestly, a lot of other geysers have better eruptions than Old Faithful, they're just either not as frequent or impossible to predict and you just have to get lucky and be in the right place at the right time.  And there are plenty of trails around the Old Faithful area to check out while waiting for Riverside's predicted next eruption.  Of course, a trip to Morning Glory would probably have been just as depressing as the hike down Mammoth. (and I shall take this moment to point out the fact that I am not even going to mention Roaring Mountain.  Except, you know, to mention that I'm not mentioning it.)

Onward and downward.  We did hit Midway Basin, which is one of my favorites because of the hot waterfalls into the river, where Luke really liked Grand Prismatic Spring, and there were plenty of waterfalls (although there's never enough for me), and Dunraven Pass left us a little light headed, and we apparently just missed seeing a mama bear and her cubs because we turned around at the petrified tree.  And then we came home through Grand Teton NP, and they were majestic and beautiful, but by that time I had the worst sunburn I've had in ten years and had discovered that mom's allergy pills don't work for me so I was slightly miserable and my camera's memory card was practically full and then the brand new battery went and died, so after leaving Old Faithful and starting for home the trip took a turn for the more "un" than "pleasant," at least for me.  But we got home with a couple of new books (always a good thing!) and a still half full bag of GINORMOUS marshmallows that I shall roast over the stove when I'm craving something sweet.  And Theodore.

Generally speaking I'm the type to pick up a cute stuffed animal and exclaim over how cute it is and put it back down and forget all about it.  But in the gift shop at Mammoth on our first day I saw a four-foot-tall version of little T.R. Bear hear and totally fell in love, so when they had the little version at the Old Faithful gift shop on Sunday . . . well, he was coming home with me, no buts about it.  There's just something about the history combined with the cuteness that's irresistible.  I mean, there's the whole teddy bears were named after Teddy Roosevelt thing . . . and the name tag that says T.R. Bear thing . . . and the "Junior Rough Rider" label on the hat thing (on the part that's tilted up on the right) . . . and the fact that teddy bears are just cute as it is thing . . . and the teddy bear in a ranger suit is freaking adorable thing . . . but honestly I think it's the little Roosevelt spectacles that put me over the top.  Cute bear in a ranger suit?  It's definitely got the "awwwwww!" factor, but I would just tell mom she should get it for the creature I've been referring to as the niece-phew before today and let it go. (side note: the whole niece-phew thing has been weirding me out for a month and there shall be a whole post about that upcoming.)  But those totally spot-on spectacles?  Pushed him over the boundary into must-have territory.  If my mother can keep a stuffed ewok on her bed for twenty years than this little guy is definitely sitting on our shelf for at least that many.

And that was our lovely, long-awaited vacation.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go recover from it.

(seriously, how does it happen that one always needs a vacation to recover from one's vacation?!)

P. ost  S. cript
This one's actually one from the trip.  I'll post it - and a few more - on facebook, but the cool kids who read my blog get a sneak peek! :-)


  1. 1. Never been to yellowstone. Unless the outskirts of West Yellowstone in February where I never left the car counts. Which I'm thinking it doesn't.

    2. Your stick figure dad drawing made me laugh.

    1. I imagine he will not be a fan when he sees it, but I think it's pretty spot on. :-)

  2. 3. Frying pans. Who knew?

    Not Numbered. Artist Point, from what I've heard, is a very good restaurant. Never eaten there though.

    Not Numbered. I think your Buffalo story beats Brandy's "Cows have tried to eat me on 3 occasions, but they taste so good" story.