Sunday, June 10, 2007

Driving around Yellowstone

Yellowstone is a big park and relatively empty of people, except on the figure '8' loop road that is the only way to travel through the landscape (hikers excluded). Just to get a sense of the scales involved, I clipped the two following images from Google Earth, both taken at 50 miles altitude. While the full loop isn't marked, I made the clip to just cover the road system. Up at the top is Mammoth Hot Springs and the north end of the park. The Yellowstone label at the bottom of the image is at the Old Faithful complex. We are camped at Fishing Bridge RV campground. The parts of the road that weren't plotted at this altitude can be inferred by those 'i' informational icons. The center stroke of the '8' is where the loop constricts in the middle of the park, between Canyon, and Norris Geyser Basin.
The Dallas, Ft Worth Map is actually a little larger, depending on how you define the metroplex, with a LOT more people.

But there is a significant difference in driving the loop around Dallas/Ft. Worth and driving Yellowstone. The roads in Yellowstone are two lane paved roads, with top speed limits of 45, except near the junctions where they drop to 35 or 25. And, even on the 45mph stretches, it's not advisable. Many people are more interested in the sights than in getting to the next stop fast, so 30mph traffic is very common.

And then there are the animal jams. If a grizzly bear is seen near the road with her cubs, everyone stops. Traffic constricts to one lane at best, and all eyes are on the bears, not on the other cars. People stop in the lanes or do their best to pull over.

If a buffalo herd decides to cross the road, all traffic stops. A buffalo isn't impressed by your puny little metal box and isn't likely to make room for you. By the way, it's a $50 fine if you honk your horn.

Given all this, we've been here nearly two weeks and on average have looped the park every day. I visit the gas pumps daily. But the only gripe I have is with the people who've never really driven in any place except mazes like Dallas. They tend to ride your bumper and distract from the real reason why we're all here -- to see the grandeur beside the road.


Anonymous said...

If you really want to see animal up closed or to experience the real wilderness, then you should leave the car and take a walk along many of the hiking trails in the park. Hikers, rock climbers, and locals coin the name "tourons" (or moron tourists) for lazy people who sitting on their car, experience the wilderness from the car window.

Henry Melton said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for that bit of info. I had caught an undercurrent of prejudice from another source, but they hadn't bothered to define the term. It is sad, isn't it, how human's can't tolerate differences, even in the ways we enjoy a common wonder?