It’s Race Day! Stephanie and I are running in the West Yellowstone Half Marathon, put on by Vacation Races. The race had an option for walkers to go out on the course 15 minutes before the first wave of runners (instead of keeping them until the very end), so Stephanie took advantage of that. That means we were up at 4:30am so she could line up for the 5:45 start. Early! It starts getting light before 5:00 here, so fortunately we were never in the dark.
I took off with one of the middle waves, about 45 minutes after Stephanie started. The race took us through about a mile of the streets of West Yellowstone, then the rest was in the Gallatin National Forest. The entire race was held within Montana. (Gallatin is a popular name for things in these parts: national forests, towns, rivers, etc. Gallatin was the Secretary of the Treasury under Thomas Jefferson during the Louisiana Purchase. Thank you Mallory for this great info! She is a true local now.)
Stephanie finished about 35 minutes after I did, so I entertained myself at the Finish Line. I witnessed a marriage proposal (she said Yes), and a man shotgunning a beer as he finished. There were runners from nearly every state and multiple countries. I heard the race emcee call off runners from Croatia and Venezuala.
We took our filthy selves back to the motel around 10am and woke up Marissa. Like I’ve said previously, everybody is enjoying this vacation.
After cleanup and lunch in the room, our party of three was off to see Old Faithful. The time has come for some serious touring. The drive from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful is about 30 miles, but took us almost 2 hours due to traffic. People love to slow down to look at two bison laying down!
We were slightly concerned about parking at Old Faithful, considering we were arriving at 2pm, but there were plenty of empty spots, and we made a beeline for the namesake geyser. We found a place to sit down and wondered when the next eruption was. We asked a passing Park Ranger and he told us not until about 3:10. Oh good, we had an hour, so we walked the boardwalk that passes dozens of geysers and springs in the area.
We made it back to Old Faithful before the eruption and found a place on the sidewalk a ways back to watch. By this time, all the seating was long gone and there were big crowds in the main viewing area.
While waiting, several other tourists approached us and asked us what time Old Faithful would go off. We felt like Park-Rangers-in-training. We gave everybody the scoop and felt good knowing we are here to help.
Old Faithful does not disappoint. She erupted more or less right on time. A few suggestive gurgles and then thar she blows. What a sight.
Following the Old Faithful fun, we hit the multiple gift shops and secured some ice cream. We saw lots of other runners also wearing their race shirts from earlier today. Stephanie even got a High Five from a runner. Love the running community.
Our evening plans feature going to the Chico Hot Springs in Pray, Montana. This involves meeting Mallory and Chattie at Terrace Springs inside the park at 5:00. We have not had cell reception since we left West Yellowstone at Noon, except for an odd brief minute while walking the boardwalk at Old Faithful. So just like the old days, we made a plan to meet, and we hope everybody can make it!
We arrived at Terrace Springs a few minutes after 5:00, but Mallory & Chattie could not get there until 5:45. No worries. We knew they might be delayed. We mostly passed the time watching two massive Ravens from our car. They were exploring the parking area and it seemed both had their eye on us.
As soon as Mallory and Chattie arrived, we were on our way. Chico Hot Springs is 30 miles or so north of Gardiner, which is located at the Yellowstone North Entrance. It was quite a drive. We got to the Hot Springs about 7:45.
We stopped in Gardiner for a peek at the Roosevelt Arch. They don’t make entrances like that anymore. Mallory and I recreated our jumping pic in front of the arch from 2012. We nailed it first try.
The drive from Gardiner to Pray was gorgeous. The entire stretch followed the Yellowstone River. We saw hundreds of elk in the fields that line the river.
Mallory & Chattie have been to the Chico Hot Springs before, so we are there on their recommendation. It did not disappoint. It has the looks of an outdoor swimming pool, but it is fed by a mineral spring. The pool is divided into normal hot spring, and extremely hot spring. We spent most of our time in the extremely hot spring. Good for sore muscles after a Half Marathon!
We got food and drink, and even wrapped up the evening with ice cream, all there poolside.
As we were walking out of the hot springs about 9:45, we could see the silhouette of a pronghorn on the top of the hill outside the building. That’s a nice touch, Chico.
I got a Pepsi for the road from the bartender inside. I couldn’t help but tell him what a great time we had at their place tonight. It was a perfect evening. And he gave a High Five to me and to Marissa! The Covid protocols are definitely outta here!
We left around 9:45 and got back to West Yellowstone about 2 hours later. It was a super long day, but that is how you want your great days to feel. Looking forward to tomorrow, Yellowstone.