Eastward we continued from Oregon through Idaho (which was shockingly beautiful; naked bathing in clear mountain streams, natural hot springs and sunny winding trails through the pines) onwards to my own primary destination: Yellowstone National Park.
I’d planned to be in Yellowstone in 2009 but that didn’t happen for a number of complicated reasons, so my original travel partner and I (the college roomie) rescheduled our date with the bison and geysers for three years later. The trip ended up being a “congratulations you finished law school” instead of “one last hurrah before starting law school” vacation of awesomeness.
As we left our rustic campsite in the Bitteroot-Selway National Forest after several days away from electricity, media, and communications technology I realized I’d done a grand total of zero advance preparation for Yellowstone, a trip that I’d ostensibly been waiting three years to take. Oops! Luckily the rendezvous point to begin the MontanaWyomingIdaho Yellowstone experience was Bozeman, MT, home of the Sweet Pea Festival and my extended (awesome) family. In my aunts we found enthusiastic tour guides ready to show us all the park had to offer, from north to south, soup to nuts, or more appropriately from mudpots to the Grand Canyon. You thought that was just in Arizona? Nope, they’ve got one up there too.
Our four days in the national park itself were amazing, exhausting and packed with hiking, driving and wildlife-spotting galore (though no bears, sadly).
But perhaps the coolest things that we saw in the parks were the things you couldn’t see: microscopic thermoacidophilic bacteria! The brilliant thing about these tiny creepy crawlies is that they change color based on the temperature and acidity of the water around them–in Yellowstone this means the bubbling hotsprings and thermal pools turn into garish bacteria mats in shiny colors. It was almost like heaven…if you held your nose from the sulfur.