Yellowstone – Part 2

We continued our whirlwind tour of Yellowstone with visiting the iconic Old Faithful area.

Old Faithful!

Hehe – it went so high!

It was so much fun to see it go off! Since some other geysers in the area were going off during the “scheduled” time, Old Faithful was a little delayed (but seriously, you can’t schedule nature!), but Jeff and I had a great time chatting with some of the other visitors. One couple had been coming for over 20 years!

After Old Faithful we checked out the rest of the geyser field surrounding it.

After seeing about a bazillion geysers we ducked inside the Old Faithful Inn just to see it. Very cool place and we’ll definitely try to get back and stay there at some point. We downed some PB&J sandwiches at a picnic site before heading back out on our ambitious loop plan. Heading north we crossed the Continental Divide:

Next we visited the Midway Geyser Basin which was one of my favorite spots. You walk along these boardwalks and alternative blasts of cool mountain air and hot, humid  geyser air wash over you which is perhaps one of the neatest things ever. It’s like being in Myrtle Beach in July and then in the Rockies and then back within seconds of each other. And the Grand Prismatic Spring was pretty too.

Boardwalk up to Midway

Gusts of steam blowing off the geyser

Grand Prismatic Spring

About this time we realized that there was no way we could see everything on both loops in one day. We cut our losses and decided to just drive the lower loop and do most of the upper one on our way north the next day. At least it gives us plenty to do next time we come to the park!

Unstable Ground, Boiling Water will be my band name if I’m ever in one

You know its  a good day when you start to get tired of seeing geysers because you’ve already seen so many. Between the geyser fields we caught a peek at some of the park’s wildlife:

Bison grazing

The bison that live in Yellowstone are descended from 23 individuals that survived the mass slaughter of bison during the 19th century. They are such large, lumbering creatures and it reminded me of being on safari when we saw them from the car.

The next day we stopped by the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone:

And then Mammoth Springs:

Before heading out of the iconic Northern Park Entrance and onto Wyoming:

Yellowstone – Part 1

My experience as far as large, popular national parks has primarily been with the Great Smokey Mountains NP which was basically in my backyard. I grew up hiking all through its backcountry, taking field and family trips to Cades Cove and falling in love with nature on its gentle sloping peaks. On all my many backpacking trips (including 71 miles of the AT in the park  completed over several years) I admit that in addition to learning to cherish and respect the Great Outdoors I also developed some snobbery towards the 95% of the visitors that visit the park every year and only leave their cars for pancake breakfasts and all you can eat buffets.

13 year old Elise

I saw such awesome views in the backcountry and felt such peace in the solitude of walking miles without seeing another person that I never understood how they could only drive through such a minute part of it all crowded together.

When planning our trip to Yellowstone I resigned myself to knowing we were going to have to be in that 95% of driving fools in order to see a lot and continue West (you know, that whole starting residency thing and all). The Smokies and her highlights are easily visitable if you put in a good, long day of driving so I assumed we could do the same in Yellowstone.

I stole this from:
We came in the East Entrance and camped in Bridge Bay

The original plan was to spend two full days in the park: Day 1 driving both upper and lower loops and on Day 2 take a good long hike in the backcountry to cleanse my conscience of being a car tourist from the previous day.

We got into the park late after driving across Wyoming and set up camp in Bridge Bay.

Driving into the park.
View across Yellowstone Lake to the snow capped mountains beyond.

7735ft up!

Home Sweet Tent

We were really lucky to discover that the air mattress we brought to tide us over for our first few nights in Seattle fit perfectly into the tent I’ve had since I was 14. Its an old Marmot tent, but I love this thing despite its funky smells and the fact I have to McGuyver one of the tent poles into its holder. Its been all over with me and now Jeff too: from camping on Cape Lookout to camping for a spot to secure our wedding date for the Duke Chapel:

Now we can add Yellowstone to its long history!

Jeff and I made delicious fried bologna and cheese sandwiches over a campfire for dinner. The best part about this type of camp food (and something we’ve learned from experience) is that even if you can’t get a fire going you can still eat it. Fortunately this wasn’t a problem this time!

Jeff making dinner

Mmm.. delicious!

While we were eating some jarred fruit for dessert, Jeff had the brilliant idea to mix some of the alcohol we brought with some and Drunk Fruit was born! Recipe: some rum in a jar of mangos and bourbon in a jar of pears to taste. Shake well. Later we mixed it with our remaining jars of fruit to marinate it until the next night’s dinner – highly recommend this, it turned out incredibly!

We were woefully unprepared for how cold it would be to camp in Yellowstone in June (apparently the week before sixteen inches of snowfall had shut down all the entrances trapping everyone in – or out). It was a long, frigid night so we weren’t in the mood to eat our cold granola bars for breakfast when morning finally broke. We decided to check out one of the nearby lodges on the map to see if we could at least get some coffee – for me to warm up my bones and for Jeff so he could function as a person. I’m pretty sure that if coffee wasn’t readily available we would have had to leave Yellowstone before we’d even started.

The Lake Lodge was quaint and had that old 1960’s Parent Trap camp charm about it and had a wonderfully hot and reasonably priced breakfast. We asked, but they didn’t have any rooms for the following night so we decided we’d just try and find another blanket at a gift shop later in the day for the next night.

Inside Lake Lodge – sorry for the quality

Best part for Jeff – they left the coffee pot on the table! Feeling a million times better after some caffeine, food and warmth we started out on our ambitious plan to drive the entire park in a day.

First stop: West Thumb Geyser Basin

West Thumb Geyser Basin

Underwater geyser in Lake Yellowstone with the mountains in the background

Or else you will die. Seriously – they’ve had many deaths in Yellowstone from stupid or unfortunate people. When we were driving in we had seen some steam coming off an area on the side of the road and I had gotten out to investigate only to run into one of these signs. Part of me wanted to ignore it and keep going, but fortunately didn’t and was really glad I had after reading about all the accounts of people being steamed to death the next day. We can leave that fate for the lobsters thank you.

The different colors correspond to different species of bacteria that thrive at different temperatures. Ergo, the color tells you how hot it is – that beautiful blue being the hottest

I knew we weren’t even to the big draws like Old Faithful and spouting geysers yet – but my inner nerd was going berserk! I MEAN SO COOL!! You have these pockets of earth that are steaming against this unreal backdrop of snow capped mountains and this gorgeous lake – ah! It was enough to inundate the senses. Seriously, coolest thing ever, ever, ever. We had to walk along these beautifully maintained boardwalks because the Earth’s crust is incredibly thin and you could step through into the magma. Science and danger. Love it!

And all this before 10am.