Yellowstone: le safari de l’Amerique du Nord

In our Yellowstone adventure, every day was full of marvels and wonders we don’t get to see or experience in our everyday lives.  We saw, in order:  lots of elk (bulls mostly), marmots, a coyote, bison galore, a black wolf, and a black bear!  (Fratguy thinks it was a grizzly bear, but I say it was black and I’m sticking to my story.)  Several brown, cutthroat, rainbow, and brook trout were caught (and released.)  Plus of course we saw loads of geysers, hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles, and the like volcanic wonders, like Castle Geyser here on the right.

Once again, I was struck by the numbers of French, German, Japanese, and Chinese tourists.  I also heard some Russian and Italian spoken by other parties.  All of western Wyoming really was full of French people–we chatted with a few families on a French tour who stopped in the same hotel we did last night in Jackson Hole.  They had done the whole range of Western Canadian and American attractions in the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains.  One guy, a dairy farmer in his 60s from Limoges, told of how he had read adventure stories about the Canadian Rockies as a boy, and remarked that the trip for him was “a dream.”  Another man we talked to is a retired G.P. who lectures about pain management for children with autism and insisted on sending Fratguy his slides.  (French people really are overly impressed if a U.S. Citizen manages to speak any French at all–it’s an embarrassing comment on the country, in my view.)

Jackson Hole is a weird place:  it’s really a movie-set fake western town, with the false storefronts, wooden sidewalks, and fake shootouts.  (I was reminded of that line from Tropic Thunder:  “Everyone knows you don’t go full cowboy, man!”)  There are “outfitters” there that don’t sell anything having to do with hunting, fishing, or camping–just expensive getups!  And it’s full of art galleries that sell high end (but still really boring and bad) “western art.”  If you want to experience a real cowboy town–or in these modern times, towns that service the man camps working the Wyoming gas and oil fields–check out Dubois, Wyoming, or Leadville, Colorado.  Those are working towns for working people, not just for the dudes and the swells.

Jackson Hole has, however, a pretty fine little restaurant we stumbled upon last night, and which was able to accommodate us cheerfully without a reservation.  Cafe Genevieve is kinda French, sorta New Orleans, but with a western vibe.  Don’t miss the candied bacon, friends!  Quite a treat after five days and nights of steam-tray National Parks food.

13 thoughts on “Yellowstone: le safari de l’Amerique du Nord

  1. Jackson Hole is rich people country. It’s overwhelmingly Democratic. What West should we expect there? Russian is heard a lot in London Paris and Berlin. We lost the cold war; the Russians won it. Just look around.


  2. Almost every time I go to Yosemite I run into Fench people. I found myself helping one French couple figure out the trail, and they were most impressed. Once, when my sister (who lives in Paris) was with me, the woman next to her on the bus was French. She and her son were spending Christmas in Yosemite…


  3. A few years ago we vacationed in Bryce and Zion parks in Utah. Bryce especially was spectacular, and I swear half of France and a quarter of Germany was there too (sadly I do not speak French, although I would have been happy to chat in Russian if any Russians had been there; the Russians I know prefer Las Vegas). My French mother-in-law explained that Europe has absolutely nothing like the geology of the American West, plus of course the romance of all those cowboy books and movies.


  4. When we hiked and camped in Escalante National Monument last month, we also saw the French and Germans there, big-time. Many of them ended up in Captiol Reef National Park on their way back from Bryce and Zion. We also have come across many French and Germans in Canyonlands and Arches, too.

    (I also wonder if Utah is a popular destination for Europeans, who may feel more comfortable in Salt Lake City than in most other cities because of the intense language training most young LDS people get for their missionary work. Mitt Romney is not at all unusual in having done a mission in France, so I’m guessing that SLC has a much higher percentage of French or German speakers than most other American cities.)

    There must have been a travel guide published in German and in French in the past decade that encouraged Europeans to rent RVs and mapped out itineraries throughout the West. Every rental RV (“Cruiseamerica”) we saw contained a European family!


  5. My trust fund doesn’t vest for another decade or so, but when it does I think I’m going to go the official Trust Fund Cowboy [tm] route; unless I can use it to buy a distinguished research professorship somewhere.

    When I was in France the first time, trying to brush up on my pathetic French while buying an Int. H. Trib. at a kiosque on the Boulevard Malesherbes, the guy inside gave me his best “outside the Port Authority” glare and said: “Come’on, buddy! Just give me the Euro. I’ve got papers to sell…” Lesson learned and not-learned.

    Glad you’re back and had a good time. It’s been too quiet on la Rue de Blog!


  6. Candied bacon. . . .

    We run into a lot of francophones on our travels and they’re always pleased to run into others who’re fluent (for that I have to count my spouse and Eldest, I’m still only passable). I almost never get a chance to practice my German or Italian out on the road in the states, though. I guess we go to the wrong destinations for those language groups.


  7. One of my weirdest western adventures was camping in Utah and hiking (about 4 hours one way) into Arches. Instead of leaving people and arriving in the wilds, we hiked in the wilds and then emerged into the people. Busses and busses of Germans. We used the bathrooms, filled our water bottles, and then left the tourists behind again.


  8. I spent a summer in the late 1990s working at a resort in Death Valley.* We were told that the tourists during the summer — 130 degree days — would mostly be European, and mostly French and German; U.S. people tended to show up once the weather cooled off. This appeared more or less to be true, and for some reason I found it charming that a lot of French tourists would just speak French to me. It never mattered whether I understood or not — I was just the cashier, and the numbers were usually there in front of me — but I picked up a bit of French anyway. The languages I did know, Russian and Spanish, came up far less often. They claimed that Chinese tour groups tended to avoid the place because of some taboo around death; I have no idea whether or not that was really true.

    *NOT RECOMMENDED, even if you are 18, “an artist,” in love, and broke. *Especially* not then.


  9. Yeah, Death Valley wouldn’t be my first choice for a summer vaycay (or work assignment.) It seems to me that unlike Greenland/Iceland, Death Valley is aptly named and should be avoided!

    I drove through the Mojave Desert a few times by myself 10 years ago, on my way from Colorado to LA and back again. That was hot and isolated enough for me!


  10. It’s a French invasion all right. My French husband and I just did the Grand Circle of national and tribal parks in southern Utah and northern Arizona (Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon and Lake Powell) and we were astonished by the throngs of French everywhere. Even the smallest hamlet’s one café resounded with français. At Lake Powell the hotel staff registered us under a French homonym, arriving that same day, and there were two Joyeux Anniversaires in the restaurant that night. I took the habit of saying bonjour to everyone and was most often correct.


  11. If you ever drive old route 66 and stop at Herman’s Garage in Thoreau to see the authentic gas station pumps (not working, fyi) you’ll likely find yourself taking to father and son team Roy and Jimmy Herman while they fix a tire and the stray German tourist who saw it on a special on Route 66. Likewise, the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonials (older than Indian Market at Santa Fe) pull almost exclusively foreign tourists. Again, heavy on the German. Karl May and all that.


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