Tippling

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces display their beauty about five miles south of the Montana border, in northwestern Yellowstone National Park. They’re one of the most popular features of Yellowstone, and are packed with my least favorite of all wild animals. The Tourist.

Alcoholism runs in my family. But I doubt we’re special. It probably runs in every family. My Dad, Orin Scully Gnu, was a wonderful, beautiful person to know. But he was also an alcoholic. I know this because he died of the DTs. And I believe you don’t die of the DTs unless you’re an alky.

Like father, like son. My brother, Rowan Waters Gnu, is also an alky. At least in my opinion. And so is his wife, Connie Tipples Gnu. In my opinion. And perhaps you’re thinking I am too, from of all these crazy family names I invented.

Mammoth Hot Springs is actually a complex of many hot springs, created over thousands of years.

But no, I quit drinking alcohol several decades ago, before any addiction could set in. I consider alcohol to be one of the deadliest poisons human beings commonly consume. It’s even worse than coffee. According to Psychology Today, alcohol kills nearly three times more people than all other drugs, combined (88,000 per year, compared to 30,000).

The largest known carbonate-depositing spring in the world is found at Mammoth. In fact, more than two tons of calcium carbonate flow into Mammoth each day. Which is probably enough to keep the whole world permanently free from heartburn.

I was a binge-drinker when I did drink. And I could get pie-eyed. There was that time a designated driver took me to a concert. I got so sozzled, that after the concert I insisted on finding my own car and driving home. I’d forgotten someone had driven me to the concert. And when I couldn’t find my car in the parking lot, I wanted to call the cops and report it stolen.

I shudder at what might have happened, had I not had a designated driver that day.

The calcium carbonate at these springs comes from limestone along a fault line that runs from within the Yellowstone caldera to Mammoth, which is outside the caldera.

But I’m a lightweight. A lot of drinkers handle booze better than I could. And some function better drunk than sober. Babe Ruth’s performance-enhancing drugs of choice were beer and Scotch whiskey. My Dad became superman after a six-pack. Alcohol is a miracle drug for my brother, too.

Travertine comes from geothermal vents, and there’s plenty of travertine at Mammoth. It accounts for the fibrous and concentric textures and patterns in the terraces, and the polychromatic appearance of white, tan, cream, and rust. Algae also accounts for some of the colors, especially the browns, oranges, reds, and greens.

Rowan and Connie have made a drinking rule for themselves. They don’t tipple until after 6:00 pm. But along about 4:00 or 5:00, you can hear them talking, salivating, and counting down for six. And as soon as that magic witching hour rolls around, pop go the beverage tops.

There’s a labyrinth of of stairways at these springs, that can seem endless, dragging your feet to higher and higher heights. My wife, Kay’s, coxalgia kicked in, and she quickly gave up and returned to the car. But not before gaining an eyeful of beauty that can be found at the bottommost level.

Rowan’s a beer man. He guzzles that shit down like water. Like he’s rowin’ in water. His preferred brand is Corona. But Connie tipples the hard stuff. She pours Diet Dr. Pepper into a tall tumbler, and tops it up with rum.

Up another level, and Connie stopped for a rest, with panting, sweating resignation. “D-don’t worry about me,” she heroically gasped,“I-I-I’ll be okay. I-I’ll catch up with you guys. Y-yes, yes, I-I’ll catch up. And if I can’t make it. I’ll find Kay. Back at the car.” So we continued on without her. And we never saw her again.

Rowan has a game called “Washers” that involves tossing large round, metal washers, into a box. It’s similar to horseshoes. We played that game at his campsite during the evenings, after finishing our Yellowstone sightseeing. And he kicked my ass most every game.

My grandnephew, Wiley Cody, Jr, was being a clever coyote. At 20-years-old, he could outwalk all of us old folks, and he got way ahead. He wasn’t about to let Rowan and me call him back so we could return to the soft, inviting comforts of my automobile, and drive back to our cozy campground.

You’d think with all his drinking, I could beat him. But no, in fact with each beer he only got better. And his sense of humor only got sharper and wittier. He’s just like my Dad. Dad’s game was pool. And you wouldn’t want to play pool against my father for money, after he’d put away a six-pack or two. But you wouldn’t mind hearing the laughter and humor. He was funny as hell. Just like my brother.

So we had to chase the fucker down. But the faster Rowan and I walked, the swifter he proceeded, disappearing higher and higher up staircases and hiding between hot springs terraces. Goddamned coyote.

The best way to beat my brother at a game of manual skill and dexterity, is to wait until he’s upset about something. The same strategy was effective against my Dad.

One thing that made it hard to catch up with Wiley, was that every 10 or 20 feet I was stopping to take a picture. How could I resist? There was new beauty found at every step. We were chasing a coyote through heaven.

One late afternoon around 5:45, Rowan was trying to resolve a computer issue over the phone with someone at his tax office. Nothing seemed to work, and he was feeling more and more frustrated. After he finished the call, he made the mistake of challenging me to a game of Washers.

I kicked his ass, 11-1.

We reached a top level and found a parking lot that was nearly empty. What the hell? The bottom levels were packed with cars, and we’d thought ourselves extremely lucky to pull into a spot right after somebody pulled out. But if we’d only gone around a corner and up a hill, we would have encountered a parking paradise, and been close to sensational sights like this.

Fortunately for him, the game finished at 6:00. A beer later, he narrowly edged me, 11-10. And by 7:00, I was on the wrong end of scores like 11-6, 11-3, etc, to a giggling sibling spouting one-liners a mile a minute.

That’s when I gave up and headed back to my cabin. I had to hit the hay, so I could get up at 4:00 and drag everyone else out of bed for another fun day at Yellowstone.

With wobbly legs, we finally cornered Wiley at a dead-end, in this remote location, far from my parked car. And in my view, this was the most beautiful hot spring of all of Mammoth. We spent a few minutes here, stunned by the visual, while keeping our cameras busy. I couldn’t be mad at Wiley. This spot made the chase all worthwhile. He truly was a cunning coyote, who’d won a place in my heart.

29 comments

  • Wow, wow, wow! These photos are stunning!! This is like hiker’s paradise! Such a pity it is so far away. Ok – time to add another destination onto my wish list 😏

    I think drinkers fall into 3 categories – the angry drunk, the happy drunk, and the one who wants to go to sleep after one drink. I’m in the latter category.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Once again, great pictures! Its like I can reach out and touch the water!
    LOL at your brother beating you at the game, sometimes you just can’t win. 🙂 I know the feeling!
    “more poison than coffee”, I need to make note that you actually said that! And that is why I drink more coffee than I do alcohol! 🙂
    Thanks for continuing to take us along on your Yellowstone adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

  • The pictures are stunning, and thanks for identifying the minerals at work.

    The observations on alcohol’s effects on our families and social fabric were thought provoking and mindful of the ups and downs of habitual abuse. With so much emphasis on drug addiction in our media threads, we can forget that alcohol is just as damaging to family fibers. Unless we’re part of a family of abusers, like yours – and mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In fact, travertine is a common building material. We have some decorative travertine in our kitchen counter’s backsplash. But I never knew before now that it comes from hot springs.

      I guess if I had to choose between alcohol addiction and drug addiction, I’d pick drugs. The mortality rate seems to be much lower. But both are very damaging, and lead to quite a few sad family tragedies.

      Liked by 1 person

  • My dad was an angry drunk, and he went on binges. One of which led to a SWAT team surrounding the house after my mom fled the scene. Fun times.
    I like to have a drink but I get giggly instead of despondent and mean. I’m an early riser who can’t abide hangovers so that limits what I drink no matter how good of a time I am having.
    Gorgeous pictures, TG!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whoa, that’s getting pretty bad when a SWAT team comes out to deal with someone’s drinking. What a scary situation.

      I had a stepfather and stepmother who were angry drunks. They were misery to be around. I can imagine what you went through.

      I figure, prevention is the best cure. So I don’t drink at all and, voila, no hangovers.

      Glad you like the photos. I walked up many a step to obtain them.

      Liked by 2 people

  • Cool shots, TG. Glad you chased that Wiley guy up to the top tier of the travertine terraces.

    I’m an “all things in moderation” drinker. I rarely have more than one or two drinks a week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. It’s a good thing we caught Wiley at that dead end, or he might still be running around up there.

      Moderation is a great policy. I moderate by not drinking at all. But probably no harm in one or two drinks.

      Liked by 1 person

  • My mother’s second husband was an alcoholic bastard. I won’t use the term step-father with him. I was glad to see him finally leave. He’s long dead now.

    The nice thing about al of those geyser areas is the nice sulfur smell.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like you had some bad experiences with him. I had two alcoholic stepfathers. One was just annoying. But the other was the quintessential bastard. A real super-duper asshole. And I’m glad to say, he’s long dead, also.

      The sulfur smell is nice for when you want to pass gas. The hot springs take the blame, so you can fart with impunity all day long.

      Liked by 1 person

  • My dad was an alcoholic, too. It wasn’t too bad when we were young because he was never home; he spent all his time at the bar, But as he got older, the booze affected his brain and the year or so before he died he was downright mean. Not abusive, just nasty. Fortunately, my mom was a very strong woman and managed to raise her kids well anyway. As far as I know, none of us are alcoholics. Sure, I like my one glass of wine in the evening, but that’s more habit than addiction (I hope). My dad died early of cirrhosis of the liver which led to a heart attack. I wouldn’t want to follow his example.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mean and nasty drunks are not fun to live with. Sorry to hear your dad had that problem. Must have been rough for you and your siblings, too. Part of the reason I swore off alcohol was so that I wouldn’t follow my own father’s example, as well as that of a few other members of my family.

      Liked by 1 person

  • From what I can gather of your story, you would have been able to keep up better if you had a beer and or a coffee or two.

    Liked by 2 people

  • It’s cool how you really have two separate posts going here. Alcoholism is in my family too, on both sides and very close. I don’t enjoy getting drunk at all, though. I love a good craft beer with a meal, or a glass of wine in the evening. But I never like very much of either. Thankfully. I know I need to be extra careful since it runs in the family. Beautiful photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. Alcoholics in a family can be worrisome. Sometimes for the trouble they cause others, and sometimes for the trouble they bring on themselves. Good for you that you’ve managed to avoid the alcoholism bug.

      Liked by 1 person

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