Sunday, August 26 – Smoke and Mirrors

In what is not yet even three months we’ve experienced 3 seasons in this amazing place. When we arrived in Yellowstone on June 5 our first morning activities included dealing with frozen water lines in the RV. Two weeks later we awoke to a dusting of snow.

In July our hikes were often in pursuit of wildflowers and included views of newborn wildlife. We dressed for intense sun, carried bug repellent and drank lots of water.

Now in our final two weeks we’re encountering freezing temperatures once again, even as we are reminded daily of the forest fires burning thousands of acres in Idaho, by a visibility-robbing blue haze hanging everywhere in the park. From the marina, the Absaroka mountains, just 15 miles to the east, normally form part of a picturesque backdrop. Now they are so completely obscured that a visitor would not even know they are there.

And, oh, the visitors. This week an elderly couple wanted to buy tickets for the 1:15 scenic cruise. When told it was sold out and that the earliest they could be accommodated was on the 2:45 trip, the gentleman stared intensely for a full 10 seconds before stating, “That’s quarter to 3!” Sherlock Holmes has some serious competition! Another guest earnestly asked where he could take his kids so they could pray in the lake. After some brief dialog it became clear that the Asian father wanted his children to PLAY in the lake. Lastly was the case of guilt by proximity. The marina activities office is NEXT TO the marina ranger station in which the restroom facilities are housed. A woman came in to the activities office complaining about the absence of soap in the ladies room and was indignant when informed it was the responsibility of the rangers, whom she should inform. She was so annoyed that WE wouldn’t correct this oversight she immediately filled out a customer comment form.

The smoke from numerous fires, some nearby, some not so close, has tremendously diminished the views from the best hiking destinations. On Tuesday I hiked Avalanche Peak with our neighbor, Richard, who is apparently equipped with bionic legs. I base that on the fact that, though we are barely two months apart in age, he literally RAN up this amazingly steep trail (2100 feet of ascent over 2 miles) while I had to stop every 100 feet to wait for the FedEx truck to arrive with an oxygen delivery. When I finally reached the summit the view was so smokey and disappointing there was little else to do but begin the descent. It took 3 days for my legs to recover.

Note to visitors: just enjoy your visit!

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