Sunday, August 14, 2011

Yellowstone National Park, August 9-11, 2011

We really didn’t have far to drive to make it to Yellowstone. We took 287 out of Helena and saw some more open spaces. Connected with I-90 but took off near Bozeman and headed down 191 to West Yellowstone where we found a campground. The drive down 191 was along side Gallatin River. We saw lots of fly fishermen and rafters. So exciting to see. We got to our campground fairly early and wanted to go into Yellowstone to spend the afternoon. We had heard there was road construction on the West Entrance road and we did see them putting down new gravel. We had no problem getting through that road. We saw elk on some of the meadows we passed as we headed to Madison and the Grand Loop Road. We turned south towards Old Faithful and stopped at every trail to see geysers and thermal ponds. You could see steam rising from far away…it almost looked like the forest was on fire. Whenever we saw cars stopped or grouped on the road we knew there was wildlife nearby. Mostly saw elk. We finally made it to Old Faithful area. Jim had been there years ago when traveling on his motorcycle. There is a new visitor’s center which we visited then walked to the Old Faithful Inn where Jim had stayed. He didn’t remember much about it. It was beautiful…built with logs with huge fireplace in the reception area. We found the bar to get a drink before Old Faithful was scheduled to erupt at 7:19 PM. We met a couple of older gentlemen at the bar who were at Yellowstone with a family reunion. The older of the two lives in South Dakota and the other lives in Florida. We had a very enjoyable talk sharing some of our trip details and asked lots of questions about what to see in South Dakota. We’re having fun trying local beers and meeting people. Everyone is so amazed to hear we’re traveling in a motorhome and that we drove all the way to Alaska.
After our drink we went out and found a front row seat to wait for Old Faithful. It was very overcast and had sprinkled rain a little. The wind was very strong and I was only dressed in a little shirt…no jacket. I was freezing. Jim had to wrap me in his arms to warm me up. I was still cold.
We chatted with the lady next to us while we waited. Old Faithful teased us a bit by steaming and spitting water several times. The benches were full of people cameras in hand. Some kept standing every time the geyser spitted. Finally at 7:24 PM Old Faithful finally came to life. I took lots of pics. When it was finished all the people disappeared inside to get out of the cold. Jim and I got to the car and headed back to the campground for the night.
When we got back I made hot chocolate…I’ll miss this cool weather when we get back home to 100+ degree temps.
In the morning we set out again and headed north on the Grand Loop Road to check out more geysers, falls and wildlife. It is all so beautiful. Yellowstone covers a huge area and has so many different types of landscape. We drove to The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and saw the falls. They have a North Rim Drive and a South Rim Drive. We did both. On the South Rim Drive I saw a bison right on the side of the road then also saw a couple of beautiful antlered elk grazing near one of the trailheads. Lots of people were there takings photos. One lady started yelling, either to her husband or son, telling them every thing to do. I couldn’t believe it. Most of the people were laughing but one young man told her to “be quiet”. It was unbelieveable that she would stand there yelling at the top of her lungs.
On our drive around the rest of the loop we ran into a herd of bison. One young bison was crossing the road. A park ranger tried to get him across so the traffic could go on but the bison kept getting in the road. By the time we got up near them we saw the young bison on one side and probably his mother on the opposite side. Hopefully, that finally got together. I took some pics and that was fun to see. We made it back around to Old Faithful again and went back to the Inn bar for a beer and to check out the next scheduled eruption. Just as we walked up we saw everyone sitting on the benches and figured out it was about that time. In five minutes time, Old Faithful came to life again. It was beautifully sunny and hot. I got some pics with my phone as well as a good video. Now I just need to figure out how to get the video to my PC. After that we headed to the bar and found our two old friends from the day before. We sat again and visited with them about what we had done and seen that day and they also shared there activities and their plans for the coming days. They are also leaving on the Friday and traveling to Grand Teton NP just like us. I wonder if we’ll see them there.
The second full day in Yellowstone we wanted to drive the Upper Loop. The Upper Loop road climbs through the mountains. We stopped at a fantastic overlook and could see for miles and miles. The hillside there was covered with wildflowers. People had crossed the road and were taking photos of each other sitting in the flowers. That loop road is so different than the lower loop where all the geysers are. We also ran into some construction at the junction with the northeast entrance road. We sat there on the road for about 30 minutes before we got to move. We had planned to stop at the lodge for lunch but decided to get out of the area and head for Mammoth Springs.
When we got there the town was packed with cars and people. We were lucky to find a parking place and decided to go to the grill for lunch instead of the café. Bad decision!!! I got a cheeseburger. It was cold and the cheese was not even warm enough to be soft. I was very unhappy and completed a survey and left it in the box. It won’t matter…they don’t read those things anyway. We left there and walked to the Mammoth Spring. It was a huge mound of tiered levels of mineral deposits. So otherworldly looking. As we walked back to the car we stopped to get ice cream. The guy dipping was from Texas and he gave me two Texas-sized scoops. It was about a pint of ice cream. It made up for the horrible lunch.
We headed back down towards Madison and the road out of the park. On the way we saw more bison. They are everywhere in this park. They have flashing signs warning about bison.
We left the next morning and drove through the park again to get to Grand Teton NP. More about that later.

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