Friday, July 7, 2017

"One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure." Yellowstone

Yellowstone, Wyoming


And what an adventure we had...

We arrived in Yellowstone late on Saturday night, set up our bed and fell right asleep. Because the car was on a slight incline, I woke up crouched at the bottom of the bed knees bent to my chest. We had a slow start but eventually left the KOA and headed the hour drive into Yellowstone National Park. Greg noticed that he had seen  more “scenic site” signs than actual people in the entire time we’ve been in Wyoming. Which, let’s be honest, is right up my alley. Beautiful landscape without annoying people messing it up. That didn’t last long.

We finally got into the park and had another hour drive to the first visitor’s center where we could begin our first hike. When we asked the lady about one particular hike we had scoped out, Elephant Back Trail, she looked at us very concerned and said, “Is it just the two of you? We normally recommend going out with three or more. This is bear country you know.” We nodded that we understood and had come prepared with our bear spray and had read all the literature Yellowstone had kindly provided. Once we got on the trail though, I have to say, I was a little paranoid. Checking for my bear spray to make sure I could reach it. Asking Greg if he thought we were ok. Reviewing  with him the scene from “The Reverent” in which Leonardo DiCaprio gets brutally tossed around like a dead mouse by an enormous Grizzly Bear for about 30 excruciating minutes. At one point, I actually stepped back, ducked down and had a small panic attack before realizing the massive object on the trail was a rock. Not a bear. (Mom- I really need my glasses!) We had a pleasant 4 mile hike through pine forest up to on outlook of the Yellowstone Lake. We saw a fox. It was lovely. And then it rained.

Let me preface this by saying that for the last THREE DAYS, Greg and I had been sitting in a car. Sitting. In. A. Car. And it was been BEAUTIFUL everywhere we went. On this day, it rained.

We finished the hike and went back to the car to explore some more. We saw several Bison (or maybe just two Bison over and over again - we can’t be sure). We walked through hot mud springs next. It was really neat to see hot mud bubbling from the ground but, as the six year old in front of us noted, they smelled “like crap”.

It kept raining, so we left. We drove an hour back to the entrance, an hour into Cody, the town we (Greg) said the Air BnB was in, and since there is no cell service ANYWHERE in Wyoming, we did not know until we got into Cody that the place we were staying was another hour and fifteen minutes back towards the park. It was a low point for us and a pretty silent couple of minutes in the car.

The place ended up being beautiful. It was right on the river and only 40 minutes from a different park entrance. Overall though, the day had not been great.

On day two however, Yellowstone redeemed itself.  

Let me step back a moment to complain/explain that I had no idea there would be so much driving involved once we got into the park. Our Air BnB host, Zig, suggested we go to the furthest place we wanted to see first, and then work our way back out of the park which is a really solid plan and helps to avoid some of the more crowded areas. We left at 7:15am on Monday morning (day 2). We did not get to our first destination until 10:45am. That is 3.5 hours. 40ish minutes to the park gates, and then almost three hours from the entrance of the park to Old Faithful, our first stop. That’s almost how long it takes to cross the entire state of Pennsylvania (or from Philly to Pittsburgh anyway). And that was just one way! I was not mentally prepared for that and so for the first part of the morning I was, admittedly, quite grumpy.

Rant over.

We entered the park at the Northeast entrance. From there to the first hiking destination (about an hour) we had an incredible landscape and wildlife. Well, mostly bison. So many bison. Bison herds. By the end of the day we were actually annoyed at people for stopping to see the bison because we had seen so many.

river right before Grand Prismatic

We finally made it to Old Faithful and, just our luck, it had just gone off moments before. Meaning we would have to wait about 90 minutes for the next occurrence. We decided to make the most of our time and do the next thing on our list. We wanted to do a trail called Fairy Falls which apparently has a beautiful overlook of the Grand Prismatic Spring, something we were both dying to see. Well, just our luck, the trail that leads to the overlook was closed. SO, we went to see the Grand Prismatic from the ground level.There were a ton of these smaller hot springs which were also beautiful and amazing all around the Grand Prismatic with a river right below it. The Grand Prismatic was stunning and these pictures do not do it justice. The steam just rises above it and the colors are so vibrant. We took about a million pictures but I’ve tried to include just the best.

Since we couldn’t do our Fairy Falls hike, we picked another one, Mystic Falls. It was a strenuous 4 mile round trip hike with amazing landscape, overlooking the river and with views across the park. The hike brought me out of my grump.

We went back to Old Faithful hoping to catch the next explosion. We waited for a while in a huge crowd of people and finally, it went off. It was way higher and lasted longer than I predicted. I know this is one of the most famous attractions at the park, and while I was impressed by it and glad we saw it, there was so much other stuff I would recommend over that. (See above and below).

Last on our list of things to do was a hike called “Uncle Tom’s Trail”. Every book, online search and person we talked to raved about this short but incredible hike down into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. So we drove the hour to the entrance of the lower falls on the South Rim and, just our luck, Uncle Tom’s Trail was closed. (Are you noticing a theme here?) There was another trail however that led us to Artist Point. It was short and not terribly difficult but pretty steep at points. It ended up being a great hike with spectacular views of the waterfall and canyon. The waterfall was just dumping water in the river, which I realize is what waterfalls do, but you could almost feel how much water was pouring down. The view of the canyon and the river below was awesome from every angle- and just your luck - we took pictures from every angle for your enjoyment. Artist’s point ends at a view straight on of the river in front and the canyon on either side. By the time we hiked back to our car it was about 6:30. Exhausted, we started making the trek out of the park and back to Zig’s place. We saw several more bison and what we think was either an antelope or a deer. We got back around 8:45, ate PB&J for dinner and went to sleep.

I’m going to end with some pointers for anyone following along who would like to go to Yellowstone:
  1. You will drive more in the park than you will walk.
  2. You will see a million bison. You don’t have to stop at every sighting. Unless they are really close because that is awesome.
  3. Be very scared of bears. They will kill you.
  4. Any place you can get to without exerting any energy will be annoyingly crowded. (Get out and hike- the views are way better!)
  5. Traffic jams are usually caused because of wildlife - bison - on the side of the road.
  6. Bison and Buffalo are not the same thing.
  7. There are no moose in Yellowstone - at least according to Greg and I. Just bison
  8. Go to Yellowstone. It is awesome and you will never want to stop taking pictures because it is really really beautiful and totally worth all the driving.

Thanks Yellowstone. Next up - Glacier National Park in Montana!

 Hot Springs:
hot spring

 Mystic Falls Hike:

herds of bison

 Grand Prismatic:

 Other beautiful pictures of YellowstoneL

mud springs

our air bnb

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