Location- Old Faithful Village
Distance Traveled Today- 10 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 832 miles
Weather/Temp- clear 70s
Pain level- zero
Spirits/Morale- relaxed, entertained
Wildlife encounters- tourists
Human Beings encountered on trail- many
Thru hikers encountered on trail- zero new
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 6
It took me about 3 minutes to get packed up and moving down the trail by a little after 7. One of the huge perks of cowboy camping.
The trail was flat and downhill, and there were no real views or occurrences worth writing about. The terrain was mostly featureless, with your standard pines and multiple blowdowns on and around the trail.
Around the 6 mile mark I descended into the valley of the geysers and hot springs. Steam rose up into the air everywhere you looked. Deep pools of crystal clear boiling water, shallow pools, spouts, cracks, and run offs gurgled and belched their super heated water.
I wasn’t alone, not by a long shot. This whole area of boiling springs and geysers had walkways, paths, and boardwalks bisecting them; and between all of those…a very busy road. Tourists abounded everywhere; American, German, Japanese were the main crowd, with many others mixed in. I’ve seen less people at Disney World on a Friday.
I walked one of the main paths (which was designated the official CDT) for several miles, admiring and taking pictures of the various pools and spouts. Avoiding photo bombs and dodging “selfie taking” tourists were the only hazards.
I arrived at the “Yellowstone Inn” a little after 10 am. It was billed as the largest log cabin structure on earth, and I’m inclined to believe that claim. This lodge is MASSIVE! Not to mention immeasurably beautiful on the inside. The center of the structure is wide open with multiple levels. While exploring the multiple levels, I ran into the old gang hanging out in some leather chairs. This place had sucked them in yesterday evening, and they still hadn’t left as of late morning today.
Since it’s the weekend of the total eclipse and Yellowstone falls within the totality zone…some rooms were running up to $1,500 a night, and many were over $1,000 per night. The posse was not paying those rates, so they had stealth camped near the Old Faithful geyser and were treated to its eruptions every 90 minutes or so last night. Now that’s a cool experience!
I am completely enraptured with this lodge. I sunk into one of the leather chairs they have on the upper level, and couldn’t imagine myself leaving anytime soon. I watched Old Faithful erupt four times throughout the day, subsequently checking yet another obscure bucket list item off.
Aside from the snack bar and the buffets, my greatest attraction to this place is undoubtedly the people. Hundreds of people cycling in and out of the lodge every hour. When I’m stuck in the crowd, these sort of throngs would make me incredibly anxious and agitated. However, when I’m just slightly removed from them and able to observe from a relaxing and convenient vantage point…I love it. It’s better than television, it’s better than a zoo, it’s better than the circus; it’s a living, breathing, jungle side show of mostly city bred humans in the throes of canned adventure family bonding; and there ain’t nothing wrong with it…per se.
I’ve been a touristy tourist before; as a kid with my parents, and as a young adult on cruises and other little trips/vacations at various times throughout the years. At one point, something clicked and I decided I never wanted to be a tourist, look like a tourist, act like a tourist, come off as a tourist, or be considered a tourist; I wanted to be a traveler. What is the difference? I don’t think there is an official text book difference, but I have created my own which is in line with my own personal ethos. This is my own personal definition and opinion, and it as such, it is not meant to offend. It’s meant to stimulate thought. We’ve all been the best and worst of both tourists and travelers at one point or another, but we are most certainly more inclined to be one or the other…but which?
The tourist sticks to the path most traveled. They go where the other tourists go. They hop from souvenir shop to souvenir shop, guided tour to guided tour; buying things that weren’t made by anyone who has anything to do with where they actually are, and getting the official “toned down” version/story of what they see around them. They travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to spend a small (or large) fortune doing things they could easily do wherever they came from; watching tv, eating shitty familiar food, sitting in a hotel room half the day, driving/walking around the designated “safe places,” or any number of things that would be readily available to do or experience wherever they came from. The tourist embodies the very cliches they seek to escape…and they don’t even realize it. They take the unique and make it mundane. They make ordinary of the extraordinary. When everybody is doing it, and everybody is going there, the margins that mark the lines of what makes something special…widen and fade.
The traveler may have their touristy moments, but they are at the very least very aware of those moments. The traveler takes the path less traveled where he might encounter other travelers and hidden gems the tourists will never even know they missed. Travelers step outside their comfort zone and orchestrate their own tours in their own unique ways to the places the tourists don’t go, won’t go, can’t go. They welcome the strange and unfamiliar and embrace the unexpected. Life isn’t meant to be lived on guided tracks and roads of predictability, or be lined with bumper guards to push us back onto those tracks when we stray or stumble. Travelers are living the uncanned adventures that require choices and decisions that can very well have real consequences that amount to more than missing a flight or losing your wallet; not always, but often enough. Instead of “Why,” the traveler says, “Why not?”
So I’m entranced with the comings and goings of people into the lodge. Eavesdropping on snippets of conversations and the reactions of people entering the grand building for the first time. Wandering around, exploring and basking in everything this old building has to offer. You listen to people say the same things, make the same observations, criticisms, remarks, and anecdotes as other people who stood in the same spot minutes ago, hours ago, days, months, years, decades. They think they’re so clever; we all think we’re clever… but we’re not. We’re all so very similar, with similar thinking brains, and similar seeing eyes that process everything around us in a similar way. Yes, we’re all unique, just like everyone else.
I loved every moment of it. Being a part of it, yet slightly removed. I could have sat there all day…and I did. The rest of the group hiked out a little after noon, except Stomper, the French Canadian from Quebec. He’s like me. He lets the day come to him, and he likes to take his time and enjoy the surroundings of wherever he’s at. He slowly took care of a plethora of tasks he needed to see to with gear, mail, and permits; while I sat with the packs in a leather chair on one of the upper levels and did my people watching with a mug of hot chocolate and a plate of blueberry scones.
Around 5pm when it became “do or die” time in regards to hiking out or figuring out something else to do, I ambled down to the crowded front desk to satisfy some curiosities. “What is your most basic room that’s still available, and what does it cost?” I asked the woman at the desk. “The cheapest room we have left has two beds and no bathroom, and it’s over $300 per night, and there’s only one left” “There’s nothing even more basic than that, like a bunk room?” I inquired. She got on her computer and typed for a few moments. “Wellll, we do have the Old House room; it’s only $80” she replied. “What’s wrong with it?” I asked. “Nothing.”
Come to find out, the “Old House” room was the ONLY room of its kind in this entire lodge made up of hundreds of rooms. Not the only one of its kind available, but the ONLY room like it in the whole joint. “Sooo… It’s a terrible room?” I asked further. “I personally think it’s a very cool room,” was her response. “It’s small with angled walls, one queen bed, and a sink; you’ll have to use the communal bathroom and showers on your floor however,” she added. The bathrooms were of no consequence. “I’ll take it,” I replied.
Whether nobody actually wanted this room, or the employees simply forgot it existed and never thought to rent it out…everyone else’s loss was mine and Stomper’s gain today. To get a room at this lodge in one of the world’s premier National Parks on a Friday, in the summer, next to and within perfect view of Old Faithful, just before a total solar eclipse…for eighty bucks; WOW! The room was tucked away in an awkward corner of one of the second story halls and is spectacular! The only thing it lacks is a restroom. It has a fancy sink, a fan, a huge bed, plenty of floor space, an old fashion heater, multiple shelfs, a night stand, and two full height windows that swing completely open to a view of the geyser fields not far away. The Windows even have a large padded ledge that serves as an extra bed. This room is an immaculate hidden gem amongst the rats in the walls; nobody knows it’s here, or at least doesn’t acknowledge it very often.
I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot in terms of experiencing something that even the multitudes of people who swarm here don’t even get to experience; and the ones who do get to experience it…pay out the nose.
We plan to get an early start tomorrow, and I plan to start hustling 30 to 40 mile days as often as I can through Wyoming. Fall is fast approaching and it’s cold in the San Juans. I need to hike hard and forgo the rest hard for a little bit. I’m looking forward to experiencing this eclipse from the remote forests of the totality zone in a few days.
On a side note, CD caught up to the group at the Wyoming border the other day. He camped with them and hiked with them into Old Faithful Village before continuing on to get his 30 mile day. The dude was deadly serious when he said he was going to do 30’s every day, no matter what attractions/distractions laid in his path. My hat is off to him! I’m going to try and replicate that determination in the coming couple of weeks…