Yellowstone National Park: Give yourself enough time!
WHEN DID WE GO: August 11-13, 2017
WHY DID WE GO: USA Road Trip - en route to Boise from Zion
HOW LONG WERE WE THERE: 2 nights and 1 day
A LONG time ago, I came to Yellowstone with my family. I couldn't have been more than ten, but I remember it being pretty damn spectacular! I remember getting almost trapped in a bathroom by a buffalo (true story!), I remember Mammoth Hot Springs, I remember the immensity of Old Faithful and the vibrant colors of the different springs and pools! So, when my travel buddy said that she'd never been, this was a must do on our road trip! And though there were some bummers, and we definitely just didn't have enough time to do the things that we wanted to do, Yellowstone is just one of those must-see places in America!
The crowds. Yellowstone is packed. I don't know if it's that way all year, but in August, it's packed! We were literally elbowing people for space on some of the boardwalks, particularly at Grand Prismatic Spring! But dang. So many people. This was especially problematic when it came to showering at the campground. There was hardly ever enough shower stalls and there was seemingly always a line.
The temperatures. Okay, let me just start this by saying that we were camping in August. 90% of the places we went it was hot as hell (I'm looking at you San Antonio!), and we were running around in shorts and sandals the majority of the time. So, needless to say, I did not expect the almost freezing temperatures we faced camping at night in Yellowstone. Thank God for thick hiking socks and the threw spare blankets I'd thrown in the back of my car. Especially the quilt grandma made me! I couldn't make that steaming cup of coffee fast enough in the morning and I definitely had a North Face shell and gloves on running around camp in the morning! Holy hell it was cold!
Grand Prismatic Spring & Old Faithful. First thing in the morning on our day of exploring in Yellowstone, we hit up two places. The Upper Geyser Basin to see Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic spring. The Old Faithful geyser is something you just have to see when you're in Yellowstone. It's like a right of passage! But what I really liked is that we watched it from a little side trail and there was nobody around us! Ya I'm sure my pictures would've been better if the geyser had been going off in front of the trees, but to be able to watch that geyser, which is just as cool the second time around, without any people crowding you is pretty freaking amazing! But more so than Old Faithful, my favorite thing we saw was Grand Prismatic Spring! Just check out those colors in that photo above! It was absolutely breathtaking, though I wish we had doubled back on the road and hiked up to the viewpoint from above! That would've been an incredible photo-op!
A road trip within a road trip. After we checked out Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring, we couldn't quite decide what we wanted to do! It was chilly in the morning, so we weren't too sure about hiking. Also, bears. I was very paranoid about them, though we did end up buying bear mace! So, instead, we ended up going on a road trip through Yellowstone! Yes, we went on a road trip within our road trip! We started by driving towards Madison from the Upper Geyser Basin, basically with the intention of stopping at anything that looked scenic or interesting along the way. There really wasn't much of a plan! We started by stopping at Firehole Falls (second from the left below), which was a cute little scenic waterfall, then we drove past Madison to Gibbon Falls (not pictured, but I also really liked!). We also stopped at the Artists Paintpots and the Mud Volcano. Then, suddenly, we were treated to some very cool animal sightings!
The buffalo. Yes, we saw a TON of buffalo on this trip. First, we were driving along by a little scenic pullout and we noticed a bunch of people huddling by the side of the road. Not knowing what was going on, we just kept driving along only to notice that immediately to our right, not 10 feet from the car, was a huge male buffalo who had just decided to lay down and hang out (top left of the image cluster to the left!. We immediately flipped a bitch and started snapping photos of this immense animal. You know how they tell you not to get to close? Well, this dude didn't seem to give a rats ass that he was literally across the street from a parking lot and we proceeded to watch people cross the street and immediately go taking pictures of this buffalo from like 5 feet in front of him. Agh I was so afraid for them! Once we escaped the inevitable traffic jam that formed by that beast, we continued our loop, heading toward Lake Village. Somewhere in there we got stuck in a CRAZY traffic jam. Ya, traffic in a National Park. I wasn't expecting it either! But as soon as we inched forward, we began to realize why. There was an entire herd of buffalo grazing literally right by the road. Our sighting of one lone buffalo, which was spectacular in and of itself, was absolutely trumped by an entire panorama full of buffalo. We lucked out because right as we were driving by, someone pulled out of a parking spot and we immediately pulled in, hopped out of the car with our cameras in tow and proceeded to spend 15-20 minutes snapping photos of the buffalo, watching them go about their day, and asking questions of the park rangers who had shown up to keep the tourists in check. It was amazing! Probably one of the biggest highlights of our stop in Yellowstone!
Friendly neighbors and an awesome campground. We'd rolled into camp pretty late on the night of the 11th. Needless to say, I had massively under-budgeted the drive time from Hurricane, UT to Yellowstone. That and we got stuck in traffic and I didn't factor in how far or long the drive from the entrance of the park into the campground would take. So, our 8 hour drive day turned into more like 11 hours and we rolled into camp pretty later. Other than a stop to get bear mace and some food at the grocery store, we didn't do much this day, and we started our day of exploring pretty early so that we could see everything we wanted! But the evening of the 12th, we had plenty of time to hang out at the campground and enjoy a leisurely evening, which is when we struck up a conversation with our very friendly neighbors. I think it started with just some friendly chit-chat about where we were from and why we had come so far from Michigan on a road trip, etc. That eventually turned into them making us hot dogs, offering us s'mores and us sharing our beer with them! It was a fun way to end the evening! And an even better way to end our road trip together.
For the remainder of the trip, I would be road tripping solo! My road trip buddy had to head back to Michigan to start graduate school! No more navigator, no more radio operator, no more designate picture-take and no more partner-in-crime to go on this amazing adventure with! I missed her immensely, but the adventures didn't stop! After a stop in Boise for a few days to visit family, it was off to the Cali parks and sites of Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and Sequoia!