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  • Writer's pictureKandy Thietten

Devil’s Tower and Yellowstone

Before we left Mt. Rushmore, Abe told me our next stop was Devil's Tower. He was excited because it was featured in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I couldn't remember seeing the movie, so before we went to Devil's Tower, we watched it. That was a great decision! One, as I watched the movie I realized that I had definitely never watched the whole thing, but only saw snippets in other things. Two, it was a really good movie. And three, it made Devil's Tower that much more interesting, remembering scenes and wondering how much was actually filmed there. It was a good hike around the base, but the best part was the deer I saw. A doe and her fawn were standing by the path, munching on grass and weeds. The doe was ten feet away from the path, but the fawn was only two or three. We slowly approached, snapping pictures as we went so we would get the closest shot possible before they bolted, but as I came up next to the fawn, it barely flinched at my approach and continued grazing. I sat on a rock on the other side of the path for several minutes while I watched the beautiful creature. I thought about trying to get closer to it, but it flinched, ready to dart, every time I made a big movement. I was afraid they would both take off when a girl 20 yards behind us screamed a high-pitched, "Look! It's a deer!", but even that just got a big flinch from the animal. Abe finally let me know that he was ready to go, so I left. It's good he said something, or I might well have been there for an hour.

An interesting bit of irony that I noticed looking at the mountain from the road on the way to it - there is a spot where the way the side crumbles looks very much like a cross.

After we left Devil's Tower, we pulled off the side of the road at a prairie dog refuge we'd passed on the way there. There were prairie dogs everywhere! Running from hole to hole or nibbling on grass, with some standing erect, watching for predators. As cute as they are, they also carry fleas that can carry the bubonic plague, and although it's a very small risk, I have no desire to get the plague, so I kept a little distance. I did film one as I very slowly approached. It made the cutest chirps and squeals, warning the others about the scary monster in the area, before finally deciding I was closer than it like and ducking down into the safety of it's hole. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted the video. Next stop - Yellowstone.

We drove hard to get to Yellowstone. We were planning on stopping at a campsite just inside the park, but it was closed. Abe went to talk to the camp host who was already set up, and the host informed Abe that all of the campsites would open Friday (today). I'm glad we went there even if we couldn't stay, because we saw our first two buffalo, lazily eating grass in the center of the roundabout at the camp entrance. Those were the closest pictures I was able to get of any buffalo because I was safe inside the motor home. We drove a short way down the road, away from Yellowstone, and found a spot to pull off the road, where we parked for the night.

Thursday morning we woke up bright and early (just like every other morning since we hit the road - we're usually awake well before 7:30). We crossed into the park and I was immediately...disappointed. I was expecting lush, green beauty everywhere, but instead we were surrounded by miles of dead forest. My first thought was that the area was in desperate need of a fire to clear out the dead and diseased trees, but then I noticed black stumps and realized that a fire had already come through. It must have been quite a few years ago, because when I looked at the forest floor, there were ten or fifteen foot saplings everywhere, signaling a healthy woodland being reborn.

It wasn't long before the burned forest ended and we were surrounded by green trees, lakes, and rivers. Beautiful, but I've seen several beautiful forests so I wasn't as impressed as I felt like I should have been.

We kept driving, and FINALLY we saw steam coming out of the ground. We spent all day looking at crystal clear blue hot springs, spraying geysers, bubbling mudpots, and steaming fumaroles (like a geyser, but instead of water spraying, steam hisses from holes in the ground). I'll post pictures here, but if you go to our Instagram page, there are videos of them all, along with the deer, prairie dogs, and buffalo. You can hear the features of the thermal basins hiss, gurgle, rumble, and burp (the best description I can think of for the mudpots).

(Buffalo prints on the mineral crust under a thin layer of water)

We saw several buffalo, most in the distance, and we went for a walk down one path that we never got to learn where it led. A large buffalo was lying down just a few feet from the path in the middle of a large grassy meadow, so we did the smart thing and turned around.

At the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (not to be confused with the Grand Canyon which we have yet to visit), we stopped in a large parking lot so we could hike the trails. A huge raven was on the ground, cawing loudly for scraps of food. It was a beautiful bird that let me get close, but before I tested the limits of just how close I could get, a car drove through, causing the raven to fly away.

The ravens were everywhere, huge iridescent black birds. Crows and ravens are absolutely fascinating to me because of their intelligence, so I love to watch them. We left the parking lot for the trails and the delightful geologic features that had me mesmerized. We stopped for a moment on the trail, when I felt some snow that had fallen from the branches of the tree above us. First I looked around to see who had shook the tree, but there was no one. Then I looked up to the tree, and saw that there was no snow, but there were three ravens perched innocently above us.

"I just got crapped on by a bird!" I was in amused disbelief.

"Was that what that was? I thought I got rained on. It must mean really good luck if we both get hit." was Abe's response. We kept walking down the trail, laughing at the unlikely event, until we found another hiker that we told the story to. She was kind enough to take our picture, even having us move into better light so the camera could capture the white splatters. If you look closely, Abe's right arm is covered and he has a spot on his hand. I have a couple spots on either side of my jacket. I also had a spot on my head, that went through the mesh of my hat and landed in my hair.

Our last stop was the famous Old Faithful. At eruption time, we watched as the steam got thicker and more intense, and eventually water started to spray out of the ground, then it died down. Everyone around us was saying "Is that it?" or "That was disappointing" or one man behind us worriedly told the couple he was talking to, "That's a bad sign." I told Abe to just wait. I just read a book a couple weeks ago that talked about it hissing and spurting a couple times before erupting in all it's glory. Sure enough, the steam billowed thicker again, and the rumbling got louder. Several seconds later, a spray of water shot up, then it all calmed back down. The people behind us got up to leave. How sad. Old Faithful is ruined. "Just wait," I told Abe again. A few minutes later, the rumbling got louder, and the steam got thicker, churning in circles as it forced it's way through the hole in the ground, and suddenly it erupted into a huge, glorious spray of water and steam! It was spectacular! The people downwind from the geyser got sprayed, but we were off to the side so we remained dry. The daylight was dying, so I'd told Abe I wanted to come back in the morning to see it in the sunshine, and I'd get a video then. There was a long trail on the other side of it that I wanted to hike, anyway, to look at more of the geological wonders of Yellowstone. Not only was it getting dark, but the view of the spray was blocked by the steam and so I wanted to see it from upwind, but Abe went ahead and took pictures and video with his phone.

I'm really glad that Abe had the foresight to record Old Faithful, because in the morning we awoke to snow coming down hard. There was no cell signal so we couldn't check the weather to see if it would stick, and we didn't want to get stuck in one spot for a week due to a freak May snowstorm if things went from bad to worse, so we ate our breakfast, loaded up, and hightailed it out of there. The roads were still clear, and soon the snow turned to rain, so we were safe to continue driving.

Next stop - Jackson, WY. After looking at the cute, peaceful, lazy buffalo all day that looked so docile and way to tempting to pet, we were both craving a bison burger. We found a spot to park, walked to a nearby restaurant where we ate delicious burgers. then we walked through the town, where we asked a passerby to take our picture under one of the four elk antler arches on each of the four corners of the town park, walked briskly past some shops, stopping briefly inside the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which was closed except for the gift shop, and went back inside the RV for warmth, because by then we were cold and wet due to the rain that hadn't let up since leaving Yellowstone. We had been planning on spending a couple hours exploring the town, but plans change.

Now we are back in my wonderful state of Idaho, on our way to my first ever Monster Truck Rally. I'm nervous and excited. Nervous because it's been cold and pouring rain (other than the snow this morning) all day and the event is outside. Excited because IT'S MY FIRST EVER MONSTER TRUCK RALLY! We'll take blankets to keep warm.

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2 Weeks


Rene Le Blanc
Rene Le Blanc
Dec 24, 2023

Your story telling and photographs are wonderful. We went out west in 2012 and loved it. We have a new gas motorhome and plan to go out west in the later summer of next year.

Kandy Thietten
Kandy Thietten
Dec 28, 2023
Replying to

Thank you so much! I hope you have many wonderful adventures next year.

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