Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Road Trip, Part 9: Yellowstone National Park

*Just a quick note - as the formatting on this blog keeps some of the photographs pretty small. You can click on any of the pictures to enter a slide show, which will allow you to see larger format photographs*

Bozeman MT to Yellowstone National Park. 85 miles,  1 hour 52 minutes. 

We planned to spend a few days in Yellowstone so we stocked up on some goods in Gardiner, MT before heading over the state line and into the park. Our first photo op was when we crossed the 45th parallel.

We drove further into the park and quickly arrived at Mammoth Village. This was far and away the most well established village we had seen in a National Park. There was some very nice architecture, and apparently most of it was designed and built by the US Army while they managed the park - starting in 1886 and finishing in 1918 - 32 years later.  Just on the outskirts of the settlement was Mammoth Hot Springs - the first of many alien landscapes we saw in Yellowstone

After leaving the Hot Springs we headed south to our campground - which was about 35 miles away. Its hard to put it into perspective just how massive Yellowstone is - but the entire park is set up (more-or-less) in a large figure 8. There are things to see virtually everywhere. One could spend quite a long time there and only see a fraction of the park. We were taking the Cliffs Notes approach as we wanted to see a lot in a short period of time. After we set up our tent site we went further south to Old Faithful Village to see….you guessed it, Old Faithful. As silly as it seems - especially considering the quantity of geysers we saw all throughout the park - I love checking quintessential American Road Trip things like this (and Mt. Rushmore, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, etc..) off the list, no matter how corny they are. 

We waited about 30 minutes before it started going off. It was right around golden hour so it was nice. There was a coyote stalking the area looking for food. The site is set up like an amphitheater, the geyser taking center stage, with bench seating nearly surrounding it on all sides. 

The sun was starting to set around this time so we started making our way back to the campground. We stopped at Black Sand Basin on the way and took a walk along the raised boardwalk - while we were engulfed in steam from the hot water, hearing animals in the distance, and water boiling out of the ground. It was truly surreal.

The next day we got an early start and methodically saw a lot of the park. Theres not a whole lot to say other than it is incredibly beautiful and moving and very unique. Some of the things we saw:
Grand Prismatic Springs
A crystal clear, so deep you can't see the bottom, hot spring - somewhere in the park
A geyser hole (?), and many other in the background, giving off steam.
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Water, colored presumably by the abundance of sulfur - somewhere in the park.
There was an incredible amount of wildlife in the park - we saw Foxes, Coyotes, Wolves, American Bison, Bighorn Sheep, Elk, and probably more that I am forgetting. Bison will often cross the road in packs, bringing traffic to a stand still while they're so close to you you can hear them breathing.

Bison, from the car
Big horn sheep, going up - from the car.
Bison, from the car. 
Bison, on the edge of a parking lot - I think this was in Old Faithful Village.
Elk, grazing on the lawns in Mammoth Village
At our campground we noticed the couple across the way from us had a large cat they were walking on a harness - which is something J always talks about wanting to do with our future pet. They noticed us gawking and came over to say, 'Hi'. 

Looking kind of pissed off
We wound up spending most of the evening and night with them. It turns out they own a candy shop on the coast a little north of Seattle. They, too, enjoy traveling by car and were on an extended trip of their own. They were taking the same route (Glacier, Yellowstone, Tetons) as we were but were a few days behind us. After a while we realized that they ordered chocolates from a chocolatier in Hico, TX - who I also know. The weirdest part about this is why I know him. On a similar trip I took in my early twenties, I randomly (and I do mean randomly) stopped in Hico, TX because of a Billy the Kid statue I noticed while driving through. We got out and walked around a bit, met 3 elderly people driving around the country who envied us to camp by their camper that night. We had dinner with them, traded stories - and this wound up being one of the most memorable travel experiences I have had. Fast forward maybe 5 years, I am starting school in Chicago and I find out a classmate is from Hico. Since Hico is in central texas, off any major road, and has a population of about 1,300 - I made it a point to get to know her and let her know that I had been to Hico before and knew it. After graduating school in Chicago, I was driving around the country again - and wound up in Hico again to visit my friend, who worked for this chocolatier - who I also met then. I love when serendipitous things like this happen. What are the odds that we would be in Hico, originally? That I would see that statue, and have enough interest to stop? That we would randomly meet other travelers and stay? That someone I goto school with half a decade later happens to be from there and I learn that? And then that a couple I meet 1500 miles away from it who order chocolates for their candy store from this particular chocolatier. Blows my mind.  

Lake Yellowstone
We eventually got to Lake Yellowstone where we exited the park and headed to the Grand Tetons.

We didn't spend a whole lot of time in the Tetons, which were almost comically beautiful. J had caught a cold camping in 15 F weather the night before. We drove through to Jackson, grabbed a hotel room, ordered some food and picked up some cold medicine. We spent the night watching TV. 

Best breakfast.
The next day we grabbed breakfast at the Virginian Restaurant which was awesome - perfect diner breakfast. I still think about it today. We headed back to the park and saw some of the sights, but any hiking was off the table because of J's cold (which was pretty bad at this point). Some of the highlights:

A phallic lake
I believe this is Jenny Lake, but Im not 100%. It was crystal clear, you could see very large fish swimming around in it. 
J's condition was worsening, so we decided we were going to start heading to Salt Lake City, where her aunt lives and had finally returned home. The drive from Jackson to Idaho Falls was incredibly beautiful - winding along the Snake River for a good portion of it. We grabbed dinner (tacos) when we got to Idaho Falls (our second time here on the trip - we grabbed gas here on the way to Butte). We found a Walmart and turned in for the night.

I enjoyed the tacos here!

Up next: SALT LAKE CITY, and maybe more?

No comments:

Post a Comment