Our 2021 Road Trip #33: Valley of Gold, Valley of Shadow

Anne and Makoshika!

Anne in happier times, by which I mean ten minutes into the walk, taken at her request for her Facebook friends back home.

When recounting our disappointments about Yellowstone National Park, at the time two occurred to us: we wished everyone else in the world had stayed home so that we could’ve had the entire park to ourselves; and we wished we could’ve hiked more. We spent so many hours driving from one site to the next that we really didn’t walk a lot of long distances. We knew some exercise would do us a world of good, and yet its hiking trails — which we were pretty sure they had — didn’t stand out to us on their official, main map. It was all about dots of interest, not lines for walking.

Our next stop in Montana satisfied our urge to walk, then exceeded said urge until it began to pose safety concerns. As darkness overtook us at the close of Day Six, we stopped any and all jokes about “getting our steps in” for the rest of the trip.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #32: A Celebrity Signing in Sandstone

William Clark's autograph!

An autograph so rare, it takes an entire national park to serve as its Certificate of Authenticity.

Chasing autographs is usually an activity better suited to our comic cons than to our vacations. This time we had an excuse to peruse one along our path through Montana. We weren’t allowed to take it home, and its signer was unavailable for a jazz-hands photo op with us, but we appreciated the chance for a close look at preserved physical evidence from a real historical figure who’d later go on to costar in a long-running comics series. The giant object containing his personal graffiti was pretty keen, too.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #31: The Montana Montage

I-90 and mesa!

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…

Prior to 2021 I’d been to 32 of our United States. Plenty of Americans have walked around more states than I have, which is pretty cool for them. Our last six annual road trips took us to new places we hadn’t seen before, but they were all in states we’d already visited in the past. This year we finally crossed another state off the to-do list as we exited Yellowstone into the southwest end of Montana. Pound for pound Wyoming was prettier overall, but the Montana scenery had its charms.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #30: Restaurants Rundown

Pokey's kangaroo dinner!

Lunch on Day Four at Pokey’s BBQ: a dinner of grilled kangaroo (“Just the ugly ones,” swears the menu) and spicy corn nuggets.

Longtime MCC readers may recall our best annual travelogues usually include photos from the restaurants we’ve visited in other states and the foodstuffs we’ve found that we don’t necessarily have back home in Indianapolis. We do enjoy sharing those moments, but you may have noticed their conspicuous absence from this series so far. We had looked forward to leaving home and hopefully leaving the year’s troubles behind for just ten days. The more we drove, the more we had to face reality: it was the same kind of 2021 everywhere in America.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #29: Goodbye Yellowstone Road

Mammoth Hot Springs Upper Terrace Yellowstone!

The view of Mount Everts from Mammoth Hot Springs.

It all comes down to this, our final hour in Yellowstone. Nine hours after leaving Cody 180 miles ago, I was so done with driving. The entire day had confirmed our hypothesis that, yes, Yellowstone is big. Like, really really really really really big. I tried my best to care deeply about the remaining flora, fauna, geological peculiarities, and man-made obtrusions that stood between us and the park’s north entrance, which in turn would lead to respite at the next hotel and check a new state off our lifetime to-do list.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #28: From Sheepeater Cliff to Mount Everts

Yellowstone Huckleberry Ridge Tuff road!

The frequently photographed portion of Grand Loop Road as it vertiginously curves around Huckleberry Ridge Tuff before heading down into Golden Gate Canyon.

The Grand Loop Road around Yellowstone kept going and going and going, and so did we…

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Our 2021 Road Trip #27: From Gibbon Falls to Willow Park

Gibbon Falls, Yellowstone!

At a mere 84 feet high, Gibbon Falls isn’t the tallest waterfall we’ve seen, but it’s perfectly pretty as-is.

After we finally parted ways with the Grand Prismatic Spring, our next few hours in Yellowstone were a blur of frequent stops and pervasive wonders. Each point of interest had its highlights, but few of them have enough photos to merit their own individual, full-length galleries. Honestly, after so many hours on the road in those surroundings, I was in danger of scenic overload.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #26: Grand Prismatic Spring Fever

Grand Prismatic Springs cloud reflections!

This looks like some of my Trapper Keeper folders from junior high.

Sure, Old Faithful had the fame and Biscuit Basin had the scintillating colors, but our next literal hot spot had the hottest temperatures, the largest dimensions, and the longest line of the day. Such was the fierce competition among Yellowstone points of interest.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #25: Burning Biscuit Basin

Yellowstone's Biscuit Basin!

The heated ponds of Yellowstone: nature’s original steam engine.

Sure, Old Faithful was spiffy, but every ounce of its spewed hot water was the same ordinary color. Elsewhere in Yellowstone, organic and inorganic additives commingle in the waters to produce scintillating effects in multiple colors of the rainbow. Maybe not all of them, but quite a few. I wouldn’t have minded some purple, but the land wasn’t taking requests.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #24: Old Faithful!

Old Faithful geyser!

Geysers gonna gize.

It all leads up to this: our opportunity to witness the world’s most famous geyser do its thing. Old Faithful is the main event for any newcomer to Yellowstone National Park, the one feature everyone’s heard of since youth. It’s the center of the public’s average mental image of Yellowstone as just a giant, grassy plain with the one big natural water fountain in the middle. Its popularity and its predictably sporadic yet potentially time-killing nature (depending on how soon we’d arrive before the next show) made it the highest priority to check off our to-do list above all else.

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