Wednesday 22nd June
We leave Lander on the 2nd stage of our journey to Yellowstone. After the uplifting day in the Rockies depression is setting in again. I try counting the days until I will be home. In an effort to cheer myself up I don't count today or the last day, the day when I'll be setting off. But it doesn't work and I am sullen and miserable again with Stewart. I have to fight with myself to remember I wanted to come on this trip too. No one forced me to come. It isn't Stewart's fault and it isn't as though we haven't been visiting interesting and inspiring places. We have, but something is weighing me down. In my head I'm starting to get annoyed with Stewart because I feel guilty about my behaviour. I know it's me but it's easier to find someone else to blame and he's the only other person here. I sulk all the way to Yellowstone. Stewart doesn't say anything.
After four hours of driving in silence we arrive at Lake in Yellowstone Park. It is already noticeably cooler than it was in the Rockies and we realise overnight it could be very cold. We don't fancy any more cold nights in a tent so we book into the only accommodation available: a room in the Yellowstone Lake Hotel. The room is small with two beds more like hammocks than the queen size beds we have become accustomed to, and only a small handbasin. But at least we will be warm.
After a stonily silent lunch we set off to drive from Lake to Canyon. We stop at the rapids and I attempt to take pictures of the fish jumping up the small falls. I click twice but in my miserable state I'm convinced the pictures will show nothing but water and rock. Stewart patiently takes his own pictures, getting on with it, hopefully without taking to much notice of me and my almost permanently long face.
We drive further, looking out for animals. Maybe we'll see bears. We've seen plenty of warnings about how to stay safe from them so there must be some around. We don't see any animals before we stop in the Mud Volcanic Area to view the mud pools. This looks more interesting and I busy myself taking photographs. These mud pools are smaller but more colourful than those I saw last year in Iceland. I take a lot of pictures, I'm not sure why because most will look the same, but what the hell? I've got plenty of film.
Unlike Iceland where our tour guide lead us across the surface of the crusty ground between the bubbling mud and hot springs, warning us to follow in his footsteps very carefully and not step onto any light areas unless we wanted to fall through, here there are raised wooden walkways with safety rails, safety notices and information boards. The first sign informs us we are looking at Dragon's Mouth Spring (below) with a temperature of 185º Fahrenheit. My brains are too addled to convert it into Centigrade so I really have not idea how hot that is. I snap some shots. Too many probably. In photos - at least in mine - all mud pools will look the same and I've already got a lot!
I wonder if the vapour which smells of rotten eggs, is bad for the camera. Steam and sulphurous gases, do they make an acidic combination? I only just passed 'A level' chemistry and what little I knew then has evaporated from my head. Stewart is wrinkling his nose and moving on.
We follow the raised walkways and footpaths that lead us across the crusty ground, past dead tree trunks rising from ground which at one time must have been inundated with hot acidic mud - a grave yard of trees, standing dead where they grew - past more pools bubbling and spouting hot mud, water and foul smelling vapours. We find another dragon: Black Dragon's Cauldron (below), cooking up a giant meal of sulphurous soup. This one is 191ºF. Hotter than the spring we saw earlier. I vaguely remember that 212ºF is 100ºC and 32ºF is 0ºC so I estimate that this one must be around 90º. When will the US move to metric?
With the taste of sulphur still in our mouths we return to the car and drive on towards the waterfalls and the canyon but soon encounter traffic chaos. People are stopping and jumping out of their cars brandishing cameras. Other cars are already abandoned at the side of the road. We soon see that the excitement is caused by elk grazing. We spot an almost empty car park about 20m ahead so we park and walk back to take pictures.
The canyon, with its eponymous yellow stone wall, is spectacular but the view point is swarming with mosquitos which seem to take a fancy to me, as well as to a young boy who is leaping about screaming. His parents tell him to be quiet and to stand still but, as the mosquitos attack me and each bite feels like a sharp needle stab, I sympathise with the young boy. He continues his jumping and crying, I try swiping and dodging, but to no avail. I am under sustained attack and must have been bitten dozens of times. It is difficult to take photographs but I manage to snap some of both the lower, larger and more dramatic falls and the smaller upper falls before giving up and heading back to the car for sanctuary.
We stop on the drive back to the hotel to take photos of a group of grazing bison.
It is already starting to get cool as we leave the hotel to find somewhere in the Lake area to eat. We are pleased we decided against camping, especially as we now know about bears and the temptations that are campsites where food might be found.
A large bull bison walks across the path directly in front of us. We stop and wait while it heads off to drink. It doesn't seem interested in us and appears quite docile but we pass cautiously. Back in the hotel lounge we hear of a man who only yesterday was badly gored by a bison and I wonder whether we had been in any danger.
As I sit writing this I can hear a loud conversation between an American woman and an English woman with a very posh accent. They are talking about photography and the American is telling the English woman that 100ASA film is very slow. I wonder if she takes action shots! Now they are talking about the rooms in the hotel. Just chit chat.
Well, enough of that. It has been a tiring day so goodnight. I'm off to bed.