Saturday, 6 September 2014

A Stepladder To Get Into Bed

Yesterday was a very long day on the road. We started a bit late, not surprising given that I had another bad night and so did David. Once underway we headed up through the Grand Teton National Park, then into Yellowstone Park. We toured the park extensively, heading in through the south gate and ultimately heading out through the north gate. By the time we got to Butte, Montana, it was 11:00 PM.

The day itself was terrific. The drive alongside Grand Teton and the rest of the lesser Tetons was scenery worth a great many pictures. These sentinals of stone rise sharply from the floor of the Snake River Valley in the Jackson Hole region of Wyoming. The absence of any foothills in front means you see the whole of the mountain, from base to  peak, over 8,000 feet almost straight up. Their sharp edges and hard faces tell the tale of their rapid rise in a tectonic upthrust millions of years ago. The dry sage brush and bunch grass at their feet makes a perfect habitat for elk, all of whom managed to stay magically hidden through our drive.

The south entry to Yellowstone Park presented more opportunity for wildlife to hide from us. We were not doing well at "animal bingo" so far, having seen nothing more than cattle all along the road trip. This was to change later in the day; at this point our luck held and the critters stayed away from view. The south gate entry joins up with the figure "8" that is the road through Yellowstone. Right at that junction is one of the larger and more active geothermic areas in the park, right on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. I stopped and David quickly discovered why I am so enamoured of this park. The hot springs and bubbling mud pots are fascinating.

We continued on the lakeshore heading east, counterclockwise up the lower circle of the figure "8" drive path. Along the way we stopped at the Yellowstone Lake Lodge where we finally managed to break the critter drought. There was a buffalo munching away on the grass in front of the hotel, mindless of the crowds stopping for a classic photo opportunity. Rather than lunch at the hotel, we got burgers in the diner at the nearby general store and sat out front, eating and enjoying the lake view.

Once again underway we made the run up the loop and across the middle of the park, headed towards Old Faithful. As we made the run down the other side, we began to encounter large herds of buffalo scattered throughout the meadows and open range areas of the park. One of them, a sad looking old bull, managed to stop traffic completely as he wander his way down a hillside in the middle of the road. We finally got to Old Faithful, and as suggested it blew its proverbial steam off about 15 minutes after our arrival. After watching the geyser do what geysers all do, we headed into the gift shop and did what all tourists do. My grandchildren will be happy at Christmas this year.

It was 6:00 PM before we began the long drive out of the park, heading north up the western side towards the north gate. There was construction on this road and we got to be witnesses to a minor accident where a truck towing a trailer tore the front left quarter panel off a minivan in the midst of a left turn maneuver. We were stuck there for a half hour, waiting for construction and traffic and for the participants in our entertainment to complete their exchange of information.

As we left the park, we finally filled in a few more spots on our "animal bingo" card with the obligatory Yellowstone black bear and a couple of herds of elk. Then it was off into the night to Butte, MT, arriving at about 11:30 PM. I called the hotel while we were underway and confirmed a room with two beds and a wheelchair shower. Of course, when we arrived the room was, as is what I believe to be normal with all hotels these days, nothing like what they had confirmed to me.

There was, in fact, a wheelchair shower. However there was only one bed; David and I will not share. And then the really strange thing. In this wheelchair accessible room with a king size bed, the mattress on said be was one of those double pillow topped European style monsters, a mattress so high that an able bodied person would need a step stool to get up to it. How on earth they thought someone in a wheelchair could get on to that bed is beyond me.

I called the front desk, initially just to ask about this mystical room that the Comfort Inn in Butte had promised me, the one with two beds and a wheelchair shower. They said that room did not exist, and this was the only accessible room in the hotel. I commented on the bed and the clerk said "Yeah, we wondered about that. Our other accessible rooms are like that too, but that is the bed in that room." We switched to a standard room; it looks like a shower will have to happen tonight when I get home, and I will have to use the toilet at Starbucks. But at least we slept well and are underway early today.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry to hear about the room. After such a long day I'm sure that was nothing but disappointing.

    I really remember Yellowstone for it's hotpools and I remember Ol Faithful, not just for the water, but for the gophers who made themselves at home under the bleachers. Reading this entry made me a bit sad, knowing I won't have you to share that love of geographic sights with, and show them to my kids. I think the things I remember most from that trip almost 2 decades ago now, were all the cool earth things. I remember really being interested in vulcany after that trip.