Monday, August 16, 2010

Yellowstone National Park

A few weeks ago I put a Vacation Notice on the sign up page on my website and went to Yellowstone National Park. It was a very spur-of-the-moment vacation decision. I had a friend invite me to go so we went! Luckily this was in between the lady getting eaten by a grizzly bear and the escaped convicts using it as a hideout. We arrived, enjoyed, and returned safe and sound.

Last summer I had a marvelous three week road trip out West; this itinerary doesn't compare but I had a good time and wish to share it all the same.

Tuesday, August 3
We arrived in Bozeman MT around 12:30 pm and picked up our rental car.

Drove to Gardiner MT for lunch at a local spot, bought our map of Yellowstone NP, got my gifts for my daughters (I believe in getting all the shopping out of the way right at the beginning) -- lovely buffalo tallow soaps and hand lotions from The Prairie Soap Company. These smell wonderful and leave your skin SOOO soft!

We went through the famous Roosevelt Arch at the North entrance to Yellowstone National Park, and purchased the annual National Parks pass (my old one from the Grand Canyon having expired just three days before) for 80 bucks.

Hopped over the border into Wyoming and visited Yellowstone's famous Mammoth Hot Springs, then drove to our hotel (the lovely Bucks T-4 Lodge in Big Sky MT), checked in, and went to bed early.

Wednesday, August 4
Woke up and decided to go fly fishing! We hired a guide from Wild Trout Outfitters for a half day (4 hour) walk 'n' wade and enjoyed the lovely Gallatin River. The guy I was with had a lot of success. He must have caught a dozen fish. I hooked two rainbow trout but wasn't able to reel them in. However, since it was my first time ever fly fishing, I was still happy and I had a great time. It was catch and release, by the way.

We headed to the local Lone Peak Brewery for a pint and some lunch and got some advice from a friendly local on hikes nearby. We ended up spending four hours hiking the Beehive Basin Upper Trail which was a dream come true for wildflowers in bloom. It was hilarious. Every time I realized I was ahead of Bruce I would turn around and he'd be on his hands and knees photographing a columbine or some such thing. We also saw an elk and a mama and baby moose (not too close).

Dinner at the Lodge (I had pheasant) and another early bedtime.

Thursday, August 5

Last day in the West and we need to make it count!!! We decided early on to devote an entire day to Yellowstone even through there were other tempting things to do (horseback riding, whitewater rafting). It's a good thing we did. We drove the Grand Loop and it took 11 hours and 45 minutes. This is without doing any of the hikes. We saw a black bear way up close to the car, snuffling along and eating berries. Lots of bison, lots of elk. Both close enough to spit on if you were that stupid. Many people were getting out of their cars and getting closer for photo ops. I stayed in. People get killed every year trying to ride the bison, if you can believe that. No grizzlies. We did see a coyote right at the end but it had mange so we definitely kept our distance from that one too. We also saw whooping cranes and some other birds. No frogs. No turtles. Hmmm....

We did do Old Faithful, but it was at about 7:15 in the evening so the crowds were way down. (We came in the West entrance and headed left to go around the Grand Loop.) I have to admit, as tourist-y as it is, that geyser is absolutely amazing! It was worth seeing. My absolute favorite of the natural features was the Midway Geyser Basin. I loved the Grand Prismatic. You get used to the thermal areas, even seeing bison walking along the fragile ground. All the signs that caution humans to not step off the walkways for fear of death by burning, and here's a two thousand pound animal munching nonchalantly on some vegetation. I think the Dragon's Mouth and Mud Volcano features were super creepy. You swear the dragon's mouth is the entrance to a witch's cave, or there's some evil creature about to be born. It is the freakiest thing I've ever seen: pits of boiling mud. It took me nearly half the day to stop being afraid of the "evil" that I felt everywhere we went that was a thermal feature. There's just something about hissing steam crawling out of the ground around you that makes you afraid. At least, it did affect me that way. By the end I was able to intellectually realize that we simply were close to a crack in the earth's surface and therefore a lot of heat was coming out. An awesome experience!

Back to the lodge for dinner (this time I had the elk) and our bottle of wild elderberry mead which we got at the gift shop in Yellowstone. I had a huckleberry mojito at Buck's T-4 the night before, trying to enjoy the local flavors. Wild berries are a big deal out there.

Friday, August 6
Up at 4 am to catch our flight back. Bleagh.

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