Thursday, August 21, 2014

Out West 2014: Yellowstone's Hot Springs

Mornings in Yellowstone are good for animal-spotting:
Mule deer! We also saw more bison, and an animal that I think was a fox but the kids want to believe was a coyote.
It was also a great morning for a hike of the Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces--



--although I did think it prudent to fortify ourselves with ice cream beforehand:

Ice cream lets kids RUN up massively steep walking paths instead of weeping up them! It also, unfortunately, lets kids run doooooown the massively steep paths, and we actually offered a band-aid to a family of tourists whose kiddo had wiped out on the path. As the band-aid bearer, I quickly realized that I know of no word in any of my languages that even approximates the word "band-aid," or "bandage," or "owie," but fortunately simply wielding a band-aid is a universal sign of first-aid, like the Red Cross, and the German mom, washing her kid's knee off with water from her water bottle, seemed happy to have it. 

And now I'm curious as to what the German word for "band-aid" is. Anyone?

The hot springs are all, you know, HOT (what I wouldn't have given to have had the infrared thermometer on this day!!!), but in my travel research, I had heard tell of the Boiling River, a place where a hot spring flows into the Gardner River, and you can soak and wade and play there. 

We got directions to the Boiling River area from the Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces visitor's center, and drove and hiked over there (the directions will tell you that it's about half a mile. It's WAY more than that, in my opinion, but whatever). Somehow, out of the four adults present, it turned out that I was the only one who was actually planning to enter the water with the children. 

At first, I figured it wouldn't be that bad. The icy river ran around our feet, and to our left were several spots where the boiling river emptied into it, forming hot pools and then spilling over to warm the water where everyone was wading. The river bed was super rocky, but although there were people painfully picking their way and stumbling and wincing all around us, we were all wearing our sandals, so we were relatively good, except for the weird giant rocks in our paths and the sudden drop-downs, etc. 

Will stumbled over one of those rocks, and in the approximately five seconds that I took my eye off of Syd to attend to her, Syd managed to walk away from me, step off of a sudden drop-down into a pool of very hot water, and then scramble up out of the water onto a quite narrow ledge, barely wider than one of her sandals, in between two of those boiling inlets, totally out of my reach. 

I didn't even see her at first when I looked up, and I looked around for a few seconds before I saw her, thinking, "Huh. Did she go back to the shore?" I finally saw her standing on the ledge and sobbing silently while a woman stood outside the hot water and gestured to her not to step down again. 

Just as I started to splash over to her, and gawd knows what I would have done other than wade through the boiling water myself, retrieve her, hike back to the car, and then ask to be taken to the nearest emergency room, another random guy saw the commotion, stepped with one long leg into the hot water, reached way over with his long arms, lifted her off the ledge, and was handing her to me by the time that I got there. 

I'm one hundred percent sure that I told them thank you, because I have excellent manners, but I'm absolutely sure that I didn't thank them enough, and by the time I had finished making Syd soak her legs in the freezing river water to my satisfaction (a LONG time later), those two people were either long gone or completely lost in the anonymity of a river full of strangers. 

Thank you, Kind Strangers! You deserve all the good things.

Syd had to sit in the very cold water for a VERY long time before I could assure myself that her legs wouldn't blister, and an even longer time before I could comfort myself that they wouldn't even end up pink, and it was an even longer time before she was back to happily playing and had forgotten the entire incident. That's why in this single photo of the river, taken by Matt from the SHORE, thank you very much for being zero help here, Mister, the kid can be seen playing contentedly in four inches of water and I can be seen totally on edge, lifeguarding between her and Will, just off camera, also playing contentedly in about four inches of water:

I think this is even before Will stepped, on purpose, onto a rock sticking out from one of the boiling pools, and was offended beyond words when I hauled her back again. You're just going to have to imagine what I looked like after that--shoulders up to my ears like Prufrock's crab, head on a swivel of high alert like Hank the Cow Dog.

As I'm writing this now, I'm thinking, "Why the hell didn't I just leave the damn Boiling River?"

Because the kids were having fun. And then I was rendering emergency first aid for an hour. And then they were having fun again. And I said to myself, "Surely nobody will almost boil their skin off AGAIN." And then after somebody did, I said to myself, "Okay, NOW nobody will almost boil their skin off again."

And they didn't! So... yay?

4 comments:

Tina said...

Kind strangers. If only there were enough words to express our thanks to them. But there never seems to be.

I am so glad Syd was ok, and I can totally imagine the state you were in afterwards. I'm not sure we would have stuck around.

Maybe we'll skip that place on our wanderings of Yellowstone...

Panya said...

Actually, Bandage is used in German, as well as Verband [most common] and Binde. 'Au/Autsch!' sounds the same [Ow/Ouch!].

Glad everyone's okay.

julie said...

Awesome! Next time I can say, "Autsch! Du... verband?"

I still cannot tell you why I stuck around. I guess, other than each of the kids almost boiling their skin off, they were both having so much fun?

Tina said...

Jared had heard that most people only vividly remember the last 20 minutes of most experiences (which explains why people have more than one kid). If that's true, then years from now the girls will barely remember the boiling part, but will mostly remember the fun they had afterwards.

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