Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Road Trip: Yellowstone National Park

The Golden Gate of Yellowstone
We entered Yellowstone National Park through the East Entrance, taking the scenic byway amidst the spectacular hillsides of the Shoshone National Forest. Just a few miles into the lake district, we had our first thrilling run-in with a bison as they slowly walked across the street, seemingly oblivious to the long line of cars stopped on either side of the road. This would be the first of many close-up encounters with these lumbering beasts. The frequent intimate sightings of Yellowstone bison more than made up for the evasive herds in South Dakota. Yellowstone itself is massive, and we had no idea which direction of the figure-eight loop to take in our exploration of the park. After speaking with a park ranger, he suggested the first thing we do is secure a campsite, as they were filling up fast.

One of many roadside bison sightings.
Months ago, Jeff had originally picked a small campground, Pebble Creek, off of the Northeast entrance to the park. It turns out entering the park on that road would have been impossible, as it was closed due to snow and rock slides. The problem with picking another small campground was that they all operated on a first come, first serve basis and were located in distant areas of the park. We knew that finding an open campground with hours of driving ahead was a gamble, so we decided not to risk it and reserved the very last site at the Grant Village Campground. On the way to there, we pulled off the road to see our first grizzly bear, who we later learned was a regular visitor named Preacher. Like the bison, he seemed oblivious to the crowds and snapping cameras. The elk, marmots, and fox that we saw were similarly photogenic.

New friends, Faye and Jason
With our snowy (six inches all around!) sleeping quarters secured, we set off to explore the Upper Geyser Basin around Old Faithful. As we were warned, the best way to take in the beauty of these natural wonders is with blinders to the hordes of tourists all around. As we were waiting for Old Faithful to live up to its name, we ran into a young, free-spirited couple for the second time in as many days after first crossing paths in the Bighorn mountains. They had no sleeping plans and the campgrounds by this time were all full, so we invited them stay at our site for the night.  Over the course of the afternoon and evening, we learned about the final destination of their cross-country road trip, the Rainbow Gathering in Washington state. They thanked us with a delicious jar of raw honey from Amish country in their native Pennsylvania.

Morning Glory Pool
After a frigid (temps in the high 30s!) and fitful night's rest, we set off to explore more of the park, ending up at the Mammoth Hot Springs. Unfortunately, the water was mostly dried up, so there were no bubbling springs to behold, only a very hot walk up the meandering boardwalks. When we returned to the Mammoth Springs village from our short hike, I was eager to seek relief from the heat in the comforts of an ice cream. Standing in line, a strange feeling came over me, one that I had experienced once before on this trip at the street festival in Montreal. Seeing yellow spots, I leaned against on a nearby post and closed my eyes until the feeling passed. Just as we finally reached the ice cream counter, the feeling came back, only much stronger, and I blacked out on my feet. Jeff somehow managed to get me to an open space on the floor, and I shortly regained my senses. It turns out, fainting in line is the best way to get a free ice cream! Fully recovered, it never tasted so good.

We caught Grotto Geyser at the right moment.
After that scary experience, we decided it wasn't the right time to stop at the Chico Hot Springs for a quick dip on our way to the next destination. I guess pregnancy and extreme heat are not a good combination for me. This only confirms that in our un-air conditioned Vanagon, we'll be avoiding the sweltering heat of the Arches and Canyonlands parks on this trip.

Parker enjoyed the views too.

A delicious Vanagon lunch!


  1. Hope your OK! Glad you guys met some nice folks! The young little one will enjoy all of these photos and stories! Thanks for the post card!

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