We woke up at our Grant campsite mind-numbed and half-frozen, broke down camp, and filled ourselves with hot cereal, coffee and cocoa. The sun was out and spilling beautiful light down our faces, but nonetheless our bones danced around inside the chill of our bodies. Mickey shook it off by demonstrating his early morning brawn:

Shake out dem pine needles, break it down now!

We cruised out of the sight and geared ourselves up to do some serious touring. On our second (and last) full day in the park, it fully permeated our minds that we were really, truly here. Dangerous, wild, spirited bison; large, hulking moose; ground squirrels; American white pelicans; ospreys; mule deer; elk; wolves; coyotes; black bears; yellow-bellied marmots; bald eagles; 45 different species of fish; glorious butterflies and dragonflies; mosquitoes galore; and, don’t you know, the great GRIZZLY BEAR!

We made a mental list of our “dream wildlife” which we’d already been lucky to see:

-buffalo (of course; they were probably tired of seeing us by this point)

-elk, grazing by our Bridge Bay campsite the morning before

-a beautiful American white pelican along one of Yellowstone’s rivers

-a beautiful doe and two mule deer fawns napping on a small river in the midst of Gibbon River (how I wish we’d managed to capture that image, it was blissfully surreal)

-ospreys flying above the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon

-cheeky little ground squirrels

-of course, insects galore

I vaguely recalled hearing a lone wolf’s howl at around 1 a.m. on our first night in Yellowstone, as we violently hit the pillow in our tent, half out of our minds with road weariness. I never heard a howl again before our departure. Apparently there are perks to sleep deprivation when in nature; we diligently floated downwards into, rather than hit our pillows, after that first night.

We declared to all the wild around us that might hear that we would LOVE to glimpse moose, bald eagles, perhaps a wolf or coyote from a distance, and, if at all possible, a grizzly – but ONLY from within the safety of our car! We tossed it out for the Universe to hear and make do with it as it pleased, and floored it (within 45 mph Yellowstone limits).

We literally stood on the Continental Divide! Beautiful water lilies sprouted on this particular patch of river marking the division.

Butter blossoms in the morning light.

I really need to work on my sneaking skills.

Did you KNOW: under the signage of then President Ulysses S. Grant, Yellowstone –– every pristine 2.2 million acre –– became the world’s first and oldest National Park in 1872? Ken Burns’ recent documentary series, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” will rock your world. Please do check it out from your local library or from Netflix if you have any inclination to learn more! It will stir your spirit almost as much as standing nose-to-nose with a moose!

Speaking of excitement, Mickey and I decided to try Old Faithful on for chill-inducing size:

Old Faithful in all its splashy glory.

Well, it wasn’t really anything to write home about. It could be, of course, that at that time of day, or in our presence alone, the good ol’ geyser wasn’t feeling particularly in the mood. But compared to many of the other wonders we’d seen…de nada, amigo.

More interesting and exceedingly intriguing were the other geysers that circled Old Faithful in a rough semicircle:

Buffalo hoofprint. Water hot enough below to singe off your eyebrows.

Incredible color pallete. My eyes could never get enough.

Sky in water.

After a liesurely stroll among the hot springs and glaciers, Mickey and I grabbed our picnic lunch from the car and stepped into the Old Faithful Inn for some rest and refueling (the only kind of R&R we really need, having insanely rapid metabolisms and perpetually voracious appetites!) My GOODNESS, were we blown away!

Lobby of the respendent Old Faithful Inn.

Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn is an incredible structure, a U.S. National Historic Landmark, and on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Its original architect was 29-year-old Robert Reamer, who worked for the Great Northern Railway. Its construction began in 1903. It used only wood from native lodgepole pines (which to this day comprise 80% of Yellowstone’s forests) and rhyolite stone, and upon its grand opening in 1904, it boasted electric lights and steam heat. The Old Faithful Inn is the largest log hotel in the world and quite possibly the world’s largest log building as well. Its fireplace alone consists of 500 tons of rhyolite, quarried from a nearby hillside, and is actually 8 fireplaces in one. Have a look:

It was SO beautiful, warm and cozy inside the Old Faithful Inn that, for all the beauty looming outside, we truly didn’t want to leave. It was the most at home we’d felt in what seemed like a long time. We dreamt of how we’d build/decorate our home in just as warm and earthy a tone someday, if we ever come to that adventure.

And then we set off into the sunshine again!

We drove over to the trail leading to Fairy Falls and the Imperial Geyser. We were just setting off on the trail when, up on a mountain to our left, we spied TWO bald eagles perched in a bare tree, the female one branch above the male. A nested pair! Our camera lens wasn’t quite capable of capturing their majestic profiles, but CHECK OUT THESE MAGNIFICENT SPOTS!

Soon afterward, we encountered a sweaty-necked, zesty-grinned hiker who had just scrambled down an adjacent mountain, who, in between gulps from his nalgene bottle, told us that we absolutely MUST hike to the top of said mountain and that the view of the Imperial Geyser from the top was incredible, no matter how steep and treacherous the climb!

And so we did. The result:

VICTORIOUS!

Two things I love - wild, scenic beauty and Mickey.

We scrambled back down the mountain and headed our separate ways for an hour of solo hiking. I encountered a bizarre bird tree; Mickey encountered the Imperial Geyser up close:

Imperial Geyser

My goodness, this is a long, if colorful and hopefully spicy, blog entry? Are you ready for more? (This was a momentous day.) Ok, ok, here we go!

Mickey and I wrapped up our adventure by returning to the bald eagles’ tree with binoculars in hand (again, sorry no photos). We then took our last snapshots before plunking back into our car seats and heading towards our third campsite, Madison (named after the Madison River).

Bridge over the Firehole River - one of the Madison's two main tributaries.

On the way to our campsite, we passed through an incredible smaller canyon. We basked in the shade and let the squint from our eyes uncurl.

Rapids in this small, beautiful canyon (the name o' which I done plum fergot).

Tired after hours of hiking? My eyes reveal it!

A beautiful female moose we glimpsed en route to our campsite.

And so, we checked in at Madison Campground, at a decent, dinner-appropriate hour, 6ish. We set up the tent and went to town cooking up just about everything that remained in our cooler. Vegetarian chili, hemp milk rice pudding, and a big batch of basil pesto wish sautéed zucchini over rice pasta. We were just finishing up the pasta, making faces at the ground squirrels that scuttled around our ankles, greedily scouring the dirt for crumbs, enjoying the scents of our own cooking and barbecues that wafted around the site, and enjoying the view of the tall, slender lodgepole pines behind us, as we were on the very edge of the campsite, next to the woods, when

ALL OF A SUDDEN ––

well, wouldn’t you like to know?

Leave us a comment and read on!

B & M

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