I'll never forget these moments and even asked a passerby to snap my picture. (Completely against my personality.) She took about 12 and never said anything like, "Okay, here we go, 1, 2, 3, smile..." Or anything. Thus my awkward Chandler smile.
I was yet again hungry and tired after walking around this area, as well as hiking for most of the day, so I decided to head to my home base for the evening. There was just one problem with my plan to head home: a traffic jam.
We were stopped for quite a while while this beauty showed us who the park actually belongs to. :)
I saw another herd of bison and couldn't stop myself from snapping a few more roadside pictures on my way to my hotel. The light in this valley was magical, and these pictures just don't capture it.
The sun was setting as I continued my drive to West Yellowstone. When planning my trip, I'd picked a few fun places to stay. (And by fun I mean nerdy and historic.) I was excited to get to this overnight stop, The Madison Hotel, and I was the last guest to arrive. The front desk clerk laughed and said she approved of my day, as I told her I used every inch of daylight that I could in the park, thus my late arrival. The hotel was built in 1912 and has many different parts, such as a youth hostel, hotel and motel. I didn't really understand the quirks when I booked it, but my room was over a tourist store. It was quite cozy, but I'll mostly remember that I could hear the store employees downstairs counting out the register while I lay still on the bed from exhaustion.
Lukewarm water and a tub. Just like 1912. Kidding.
I finally rallied enough strength to walk out around the very touristy West Yellowstone and find a bite to eat. I picked a random cafe, and had a nice dinner. At this point in my trip I was definitely used to restaurants alone, and just soaked in the sights, while reliving my day. When I asked the waitress if she had, "huckleberry anything" for dessert, she smiled warmly at me, and brought me out a free scoop of huckleberry ice cream. I'm still dreaming about it. :)
As I walked back into my room and heard the old, noisy floorboards creaking beneath my feet, I tried to imprint on my brain the smell of sulphur from the park that had been wafting in and out of my nose all day. I attempted to bring back the memory of the very quiet moment at the falls, my great ranger experiences that day, and that single cool scoop of ice cream that had soothed my road-weary soul as much for the kindness as for the fantastic taste. And when I close my eyes now, I can remember all of these moments as vividly as if they were yesterday.