It was cold that morning, when I finally started stirring, happy that Walden’s furnace was working, I saw Phil, the bicyclist that I’d picked up the previous afternoon, sitting at the picnic table. The cold zapped any desire to prepare food for breakfast. I thought it better to get on the road and get moving before all of the spots were taken in the first-come Mammoth Hot Springs campground.
Rather than recklessly throwing Phil’s bike in the back as I had when I picked him up on the side of the road, I let him load it on Walden’s bike rack while I tried to post stories for you, gentle reader. I noticed Phil fussing with a bike lock, which was confusing, as it seemed improbable that any thieves would have an opportunity to lift his bike, but I was busy posting, so I let it go. I turned out that his bike doesn’t have a horizontal top tube, like most bikes do, so it didn’t really fit on the wrack. Phil had contrived to use the bike lock as a bungee cord.
After yet another beautiful drive through the park, Phil and I made it to the Mammoth Hot Springs. One of the striking things about the park is how many different kinds of geological formations and ecosystems there are. Just past a river cascading down a canyon of red jagged rocks, we hit something completely different.
After we’d established our site at the campground, we drove up the hill to the Mammoth Hot Springs village. There I paid $4.38 for a towel and a shower and subsequently found a spot where I could soak up some electrons. Sadly, there was no WIFI access, but I got good-enough 3G data coverage to get some pictures uploaded. I hung out there for several hours, long enough to get some posts done and eat some lunch. I sent text messages to Little Bird and Ox, letting them know where we were and suggesting that they join us.
One of the things that I hadn’t really done in Yellowstone was see Elk. I’d seen a few while riding in the back seat of Greg and Heidi’s Vanagon, but I hadn’t really gotten a good look. Today, the elk came to me. a hundred or so Elk had come into town and were just hanging out wherever they liked.
I rejoined Phil back down at the camp site and decided to head into Gardiner, the little town at the north entrance, a scant five miles away, for additional victuals. Down in Gardiner, Phil and I bought provisions such as steak, beer, and a little white Styrofoam cooler so that he could keep beer cold after I left.
And what did I find just outside the gate of the park? A tiny little beer festival. Obviously, I had to stop. It was the smallest and lowest-key brew festival I’ve ever seen. I think there were five breweries represented, but it was a fun little gathering. I talked to some folks who worked in the park, and even found someone who both wanted a iLiveInMyVan.com t-shirt and had the money to pay for it! Better still, he bought two! Had I had a designated driver, I likely would have stayed longer for the brew festival, but Phil had been working hard on the Coors 18-pack that he found at the grocery store, so it seemed more prudent to get back up to the campground.
Just as we got settled in and were getting the fire going, Ox and Little Bird come walking up to see us! I’d gotten a call from Little Bird while I was at the brew festival, but it was a bad connection and I wasn’t sure what she’d understood. Now here they were. It was nice having some more people to meet Phil.
We had a nice steak dinner, and near the end, we cleaned up pretty well. As the elk taking over town might suggest, there is pretty serious concern about bears. I heard some folks playing guitar at a nearby site and grabbed my guitar to join them. I had fun playing with those folks, but soon we got “The Knock” and were told that quiet hours had begun. As I returned to the camp site found Phil in a conversation with a couple of rangers about an “unclean camp site.” I apologized profusely, grabbed the beer cans that Phil had emptied in my absence and went about dowsing the camp fire and such.
Perhaps most disconcerting in this conversation with the rangers was that among the things I went about putting away was my hatchet. I went to grab it and the rangers made it very clear that they did not want me to touch it, and instead asked me where I wanted them to put it.
As the rangers walked on to continue their rounds, I crawled into bed and promptly fell asleep.