Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Trip - Yellowstone Part II

When I was 19, after my first year of college, I got a summer job working in Yellowstone. They assigned me to be Vending Help at Canyon Village. I worked at the coin laundry in the Canyon campground, making change so the campers could do their laundry or take a shower (the showers only took 50¢ pieces). While my roommate got tips as a maid at the cabins, our "tips" came when we collected the coins that fell under the agitators of the washing machines. It was easy enough work for my first non-babysitting job.

We had some characters there, two of whom were our boss, Marvin O. Williams, and his wife. Marvin wouldn't say what his middle name was. He said the only person he ever told was his wife. He never told his kids his middle name, and he darn well wasn't going to tell us.

But he was a pretty good boss. The conditions of our employment were that we had to work six days a week, with one day off. So Marvin scheduled us so that the first three days of our work week (after our day off) were the afternoon shift and the three days before our day off were the morning shift. That way we had close to 48 hours off, and we appreciated it.

We didn't appreciate his sappiness quite so much, but we tolerated it the way you humor a little kid. Whenever one of the two of us girls came to work for the morning shift, Marvin would say, "Morning, glory. Think it'll rain, dear?" He had other sappy sayings that are even less worth repeating, but we liked him fine.

Although I never actually met Marvin's wife, she was legendary just the same. At the time (1976), Yellowstone still had the old-fashioned phone systems, where the calls were connected by an operator using those wires and plugs you see in movies from the 1930s. Mrs. Williams was old enough to have actually worked on those phone systems in her day, so they brought her back each summer to run the phone board.

The problem was (maybe it was her age, and maybe it was too many years of being exposed to her husband's "morning glory"), she couldn't cope with more than ten phone calls at a time. When the eleventh call came in, she wouldn't know what to do, so she'd pull out all the plugs and start over. So everybody who was having a conversation at the time would suddenly be disconnected. Somebody warned me about it when I first started work there, so I'd know that any phone calls I made were in peril at any time. But we never talked about it in front of Marvin O.

On my afternoons or mornings off, I'd walk over to the canyon. My favorite spot was Grandview. You can't see the falls from there, but there was one area where the colors of the canyon walls were blended in a way that reminded me of thickly applied artist's paint.

When I'd look down to the bottom, where the Yellowstone River ran blue and white-capped, sometimes I'd lose my bearings and not be sure which way true vertical and horizontal were. The view reminded me of those textured "3-D" postcards that never quite looked real. I think that's what drew me to Grandview--the unreality of a place that was right before my eyes.

Other days, I'd head over to Inspiration Point, which was a longer walk. It gives you a glimpse of the Lower Falls just over the crest of a canyon wall.

Inspiration Point used to extend farther out a narrow outcropping, but the year before I worked there, an earthquake measuring 6.1 broke off the end of the outcropping, including the observation platform. The sign at Inspiration Point that tells about the earthquake doesn't mention it, but a fellow employee told me some Park visitors were killed when the observation platform fell. This is what's left of the old platform outcropping.

The main attraction at the Canyon, though, is the Lower Falls. It's narrower but much taller than the Upper Falls, and the way the river flows over the rocks at the top makes it look as though it's falling at an angle instead of straight down.

A lot of the time you can see a rainbow in the mist at the bottom, but my mom and I must have been there at the wrong time of day. The lookout point for the falls has an upper level and a lower one, and my mom and I went to the upper lookout together. But her ankles were hurting, so she went back to the car to wait with Scooter in air-conditioned comfort, and I went down to the lower lookout, where I found this nice frame for the falls.

The hike back up from the lower lookout was strenuous, and I had to stop a couple times, which surprised me. Until I remembered that our elevation was over 7900 ft.

After the Lower Falls, we headed over to the Brink of the Upper Falls, where you stand at the point where the water plunges off the edge of the cliff. The speed of the river as it apporaches the falls and the force of water hitting the ground below are more impressive in person than pictures can capture, but I took lots of pictures nonetheless. Here is the Yellowstone River as it approaches the Upper Falls.

And here is its plummet to the bottom.

We didn't go to the spot where you can see the Upper Falls from a distance, because my mom's ankles were hurting too much for any more walking, and we had to finish the loop around the Park and get to my mom's friends' house in West Yellowstone at a decent hour. So we pressed on and were rewarded by scads of bison along he road before and after Yellowstone Lake.

We pushed on to Old Faithful, where I took too many pictures of what has to be one of the most-photographed occurrences in tourism. Old Faithful (who hasn't been faithful since the 1959 earthquake) spouted off.

We stopped at the Fountain Paint Pots, where they had this blue-water thermal spring...

... near these bubbling mud holes.

And then we had a wonderful visit with my mom's friends, before calling it a night.


Christina said...

Wow, I am completely jealous of all the fantastic pictures you already have and will have by the end of this journey, not to mention the wonderful memories along the way.

Thanks for letting the rest of us peek in on your travels!

SkyePuppy said...


It's my pleasure!