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Albert Maywood Courtright II

Reminiscences of Maywood Courtright

Yellowstone Park

We could have passed thru Logan, where Alan got his degree in wildlife management and from where he took off for Alaska, but we probably took the more direct route north thru Tremonton after we left Salt Lake City en route to Yellowstone Park. Potcatello and Idaho Falls are on the way too. I remember nothing about them. We holed up in West Yellowstone for the night, just west of the park entrance. I considered accomodations within the park boundaries, both primitive and high-priced. The town of West Yellowstone lies in a small pendant hanging down from the state of Montana whose western edge is the continental divide. So, theoretically, any water we poured down our washbasins at West Yellowstone found its way eventually to the Atlantic Ocean rather than to the Pacific. We were on our way home.

Entering Yellotone Park from the west the road follows the gorge of the Madison River then branches to the north and south. At the visitors center, Madison Junction, where the road divides, we got out to view the exhibits and to get information about the best way to go. A map they gave us showed the road in the park making a big oval with entrance roads coming in to it from the north, west, east and south. A smaller road connected the village of Norris on the west side of the oval to Canyon on the east side. We decided to make the circuit of the oval in a counterclockwise direction and cross from Norris to Canyon to avoid driving the southern side of the oval, which was the longest, a second time. Tho Yellowstone has deep canyons, falls, cataracts and beautiful mountain scenery - the continental divide cuts thru the southwest corner - what sets off Yellowstone from other national parks is the thermal phenomena, hot springs, hot mud pots and geysers especially. Old Faithful, the most familiar of all the geysers, was on the first leg of our trip around the oval. We were lucky to arrive in its vicinity just a few minutes before it erupted, blowing hot water and steam 30 or 40 feet into the air for several minutes. Then it subsided and became nothing but a hole in the ground with a little steam coming from it. We watched several other geysers erupt but some of them we had to pass up because we arrived either too soon or too late and it would have meant a wait of two or three hours. A wooden clock near the geyser notified visitors of the time of the next eruption in most cases tho some of them are irregular and their time of eruption can not be predicted.

Other thermal activity is hot water springs and holes with boiling mud in them, called mud pots. Some of the hot springs build up terraces of colored minerals as the solids come out of solution as the water cools off. In at least one place it is possible to catch a trout in a cold mountain stream and without taking it off the hook dangle it in a hot water hole and cook it.

The road follows the north shore of Yellowstone Lake and then goes north following the gorge of the Yellowstone River which flows into it. Yellowtone Falls is on this leg and can be seen from several view points. Tower Falls is near Tower Junction where the road bends to the west and runs parallel to the Montana border as far as Mammoth Hot Springs, the park headquarters; also the post office. We, of course, bought post cards to send to friends and relatives saying, "Wish you were here." There is a big hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs and also one at Yellowstone Lake. When we got to Norris we took the shortcut across to Canyon and then retraced our steps to Yellowstone Lake where we picked up R16 going east out of the park.

Black bears were plentiful in Yellotone Park in 1934 as they had learned where the garbage dump was and many of them had discovered that park visitors would toss them bits of food from their cars. The latter practice had to be discouraged at a later date because too many tourists were treating the bears as they would dogs, trying to pet them, getting out of their cars to feed them and we heard of one man trying to put his small daughter on a bear's back. We saw our first bear, a big black one, as we drove up behind a car that had stopped in the road ahead of us to feed a bear that was standing on its hind legs with its front paws on the open window opening eating popcorn someone inside the car was putting in its mouth, a dangerous thing to do as the bear could suddenly decide the hand was part of the popcorn. There were about 15 or 16 bears sniffing around in the garbage dump even tho the day's garbage from the hotels had not been brought out yet. They varied in color from black to light brown tho they are all called black bears. The dump was in a sort of arena with a fence partly around it and a crowd always gathered at the announced time for bringing out the garbage. When we met bears on the road they didn't bother to get out of our way. We had to stop and let them decide which way they wanted to go. Some of them were quite large, others were half grown but we saw no small cubs with their mothers. They would amble by looking at us out of their little red-rimmed eyes and sniffing the air for a handout.

It was late in the afternoon when we drove out of the park on the east side thru Sylvan Pass and we should have called it a day and found a place to stay for the night but we had been sitting in the car most of the day and no one felt tired so we decided to go on and stop at the first motel or cabins we came to.

The road followed the gorge of the Shoshone River and it soon got dark so that all we could see were occasional flashes of light from the cascading river next to us and a bright starry sky overhead; there was no moon. We went on and on without seeing a light or sign of habitation. It wasn't long before everyone in the car was alseep but me and I had to keep fighting a feeling of drowsiness bought on by the monotony. I shudder even now when I think of what would have happened if I had dozed off. I was very foolish to try to keep on driving. As we neared Cody the road ran alongside the reservoir named for William Cody, nicknamed Buffalo Bill. The moon came out and I became wide awake, entranced by [the] beauty of the scenery. I was sorry we hadn't remained in the park for the night and driven that stretch of road in the daytime. It was near midnight when we arrived in Cody, found a place to hole up and went to bed.

Table of Contents
Salt Lake City & Great Salt Lake
The Road Home Thru Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan

Last modified on 15 April 2021 17:59