RVederci Kyle and Laura!

It was great to see Kyle, especially in such a ridiculously beautiful place. The time just flew by, wandering through the wilderness, and it was hard to say goodbye. But, Kyle and Laura packed up their stuff, hopped in the rental car, and headed South. They still had one more fun night planned in Jackson Hole, with some friends, before they had to catch their flight the next day. We thanked them both over and over for all the planning and coordination they did, but I still don't think Kyle understands how great it was for us. After seven months of planning, it was a vacation for us to just follow him around. And, because we didn't research the parks, each and every stop was a surprise. We got to be little kids, driven around to magical places, worrying only whether we had packed enough water and remembered the binoculars. Thanks Kyle!

And Laura! She also drove us around, picked some great trails, and made us kebabs. She was a fantastic trivial pursuit and pitch partner. She introduced us to a strange, but delicious, fermented drink that I still can't remember the name of. She's an ambitious girl, and we wish her the best for her Half Iron Man. Go Laura! We're rooting for you!

Mary Lou and Nicole took a few minutes to sit in the RV and feel it adjust to the two missing voyagers. We sighed deeply, commented at how quickly the time passes, and then jumped up to book another night at Mammoth Hot Springs. There was no reason we had to leave Yellowstone yet.

We decided to take the long way around to Old Faithful lodge, to see all the things we hadn't seen yet, and revisit some our favorite spots (like Dragon's Mouth!). We needed to use the lodge as a recharging station for all our many drained electronics. Just a few miles down the road, we had to stop for a gorgeous silver coyote, and watched as he pounced on frogs in the marsh. We stopped at Beryl Springs to get photos for my buddy Beryle. We stopped to see the Fountain Paint Pots - fantastic belching, spasming, flatulence-like geysers. We had cappuccinos brewed by a vacationing psychologist for troubled children, as we recharged all our batteries and watched another eruption of Old Faithful from the Lodge balcony.

We were going to sit and do some more work - sort the photos, write the blog, and such - but it was such a beautiful day outside! The week long rain clouds had finally cleared out, and the sun was shining bright in the big blue sky. We decided to go to Uncle Tom's Trail, a long, steep staircase down the canyon walls, to the Yellowstone River. After enjoying the view from the bottom, and climbing the 300+ steps, 500 feet, back up, we wanted more. We kept walking on the trail, not knowing how long it was, or where it would go.

The trail went to Clear Lake. It was rather clear, the numerous fallen logs visible far below the surface. While staring at the surface of the Lake, and debating whether we should keep walking, a couple passed coming from the other direction. "Don't stop now," they said, "the best part is coming up." Sometimes, the signs are so easy to follow.

We followed the trail around the Lake, through the woods, and onto the moon! The ground was white, barren, and pockmarked with craters. We smelled sulfur: geothermal events. There was no one around, and no fences on the trail. We could walk right up to the bubbling, hot springs and cavernous geysers, although we knew better than to get too close. We played "Lewis and Clark", pretending we were the first ones to wander into this strange, treacherous landscape (besides the Natives that had lived there for centuries, of course).

We hiked past Lily Pad Lake, which had only a dozen lily pads on it, but mosquitos the size of hummingbirds. A mile later, the trees cleared, and we found ourselves staring down into the Yellowstone Canyon. No railings. Straight down. And from the spot we were at. . . wow! Nicole was so overwhelmed that she had to sit down. Right up close next to the edge, of course, so she could look way, way down to the river.

Mary Lou left her there for fifteen minutes or so, while she pondered the smallness of her existence and the blink of an eye that was her life. Nicole only got up when other hikers started to peer over her shoulder, wondering what she was looking at for so long.

Another mile back to Artist's Point, past all the Japanese and clicking cameras, and to the RV. The sun was getting lower in the sky, and we decided to stop off in Hayden Valley on the way home, to see if we could catch any wildlife.

Holy crap. . . What a show. Next post. . . Carnage.

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