Gasp! My Thursday Travels post is going out on Friday! To my avid readers… I apologize!
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – July 5-6, 2011
My first huge trip planning mistake came around to bite us on the drive from Gillette, Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park. Despite the fact that we were already in Wyoming… the state which houses the park… I had obtained Google Maps directions that took us north through Montana. Brian pointed this out to me before we left, but I said: “We’ve been doing fine with these directions so far. Let’s just trust them.”
Well, I imagine you can see where this is going… almost eight hours later we arrive at the North entrance to Yellowstone National Park, hungry, tired, having to use the bathrooms, and then we see on the sign: Grant Campground, 79 miles.Oops.
I was soooo crabby about my mistake so Brian found a lovely unpeopled copse of trees and cooked me a 5 p.m. lunch. Then, after some super illegal U-turns to avoid the evening’s Old Faithful traffic, we arrived at our campsite! Brian did all the tough camping stuff like pitching the tent and building a fire (my job was to set up the bed inside the tent). We made friends with our neighbors and then went to sleep.
We woke up early the next morning to see the Old Faithful geyser before too many other visitors had the same idea. When we arrived, the rangers informed us that the next eruption would occur in approximately an hour, so we made coffee in the van and found a good place from which to watch the theatrics. Perhaps not surprisingly, the event wasn’t as spectacular as I remembered it being when I was young. But still… water shooting almost a hundred feet into the air because of pressure under the ground caused by hot magma. We learned that water’s boiling point there is 199 degrees Fahrenheit!
After seeing the geyser we drove back to our campsite and had a nice big breakfast. Then we took the drive (Yellowstone is huge; getting anywhere took at least half an hour) to the Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls and the hiking trails there. We first saw the Upper Falls:
Then we hiked the South Rim Trail, which led to an overlook a few dozen flights of stairs below offering another, closer view of the waterfall.
We then hiked to Artist’t Point, which was crowded, and had hoped to continue on a prairie-and-woods-filled hike but found our way blocked; the trails were closed due to bear activity!
When we’d left the park and gotten back in a cell phone-serviced area we found out the horrible truth: a man and a woman had been attacked by a grizzly bear near where we were, and though they did everything right, the man was killed.
That afternoon we saw the Mud Volcano area were has the sulphur-emitting natural wonders for which Yellowstone is known, in part. Brian found the area very stinky.
We then went on a log and stick hunt; exploring the area around our campsite was fun. We were right on the edge of Yellowstone Lake.
Over a perfectly huge and roaring fire we played many epic rounds of 20 Questions, one of my favorite parts of our trip.
The next morning we had to leave, and it was terrible. On our way south we saw so many more beautiful sights and trails and we hadn’t even known they were there!
Overall conclusion? We should have stayed there a week. The best parts of the park are the hidden parts, the dangerous and wild parts, and I can’t wait to go back someday.