crane

The Lucky Way Home Through Yellowstone

A few days before we had to leave Seattle to get home in time for appointments and a showing of My Hero Academia: Two Heroes, John and I sat down to figure out which way we wanted to go home.  There was the quick way, which was via I-80 through the mountains, but it was fast, freeway, and kind of boring without too much to stop and do along the way. The other way was up north, through Vancouver into Banff National Park and then down south through the way we'd gone a few years ago when Jet was off on his European trip. The third way (and probably not the last) was through Yellowstone National Park, just taking I-90 east and then heading south into the park.

We looked up the weather along the latter two routes, as we decided we didn't want to just go the same old way down, and it turned out that Banff was expecting rain and fairly cold weather the whole time, and Yellowstone looked like it was going to be both warmer and clearer, though there were still some chances of rain and it was definitely cooler than it was in Seattle.

John called the Yellowstone Park housing people, as all the websites said that you had to call in for availability; but we thought that since it was into the school year, it couldn't be that full.  We were wrong, as everything had been full up.  There was a last minute cancellation, at the Lake district, in Grant Village, and so we were able to get a room at one of the lodges for both Saturday and Sunday night. We wanted to stay a little while and explore while we were there.  So we got lucky enough to get a room for both the nights we wanted to stay, and it was right in the park instead of on the edge so that we'd have to spend a lot of time getting back in to see anything.

So that all worked out well.

We left on Friday and ended up in Missoula, which is a good eight hour drive out, and we knew we wanted to stop there for food and ice cream.  This is Big Dipper Ice Cream, and our favorite place to stop on the way home. *laughs*  John got black liquorice and spicy chocolate (which had black peppercorns very roughly broken and chili flake all through it). I got huckleberry and cardamon flavored ice cream on my "single" cone.  The singles can have two flavors, but the lady there was quite generous with both our cones.

We stayed at a Super 8 on the freeway, so it was a very quick getaway the next morning and we headed into Yellowstone by mid-afternoon.  We'd been here twice before, but both times we were just going through the park in order to get elsewhere. This time, we were coming to see everything we could see, so we stopped on nearly every stop between the west entrance and Grant Village. There was a road that came in from the west, and angled south east and had Old Faithful alongside, but there were a good half dozen smaller sites that we'd missed before, and this time we made sure we took a look.

There were mud pots, smaller geysers including one that I loved that was Young Hopeful, as a really good counterpoint to Old Faithful.  There were so many of them!  And we took a couple of the parallel roads to the main road just to see more of them.  Nearly all of the active features were along this road.  They included some of the deeper, turquoise hot pools, nearly rainbow in effect, and it was a lot of fun just getting out and walking between them to see all of them.

I took a few videos as they were more effective than pictures, sometimes, about conveying the nature of the thing I was looking at.

The boiling action of some of these things was just difficult to get in a picture.  One of the deep cavern features called the Dragon's Mouth was pouring out huge gouts of steam.  The day was cold, the wind was pretty fierce, and while we could hear the boiling action of the waters within, there was no way we could see them past all the steam.

Some of the most colorful pools were equally occluded.  But a few we could get up close to and really look at. That was pretty nice. There are lots of pictures of the Yellowstone features, but it was really fun to get a few of our own even though the weather was cloudy and some of the things were harder to see.

We went nearly to Old Faithful by 5pm, and there was a traffic jam getting into that area, so we skipped it entirely.  We were kind of hungry so just beelined it to Grant Village.  We checked in at the accommodations area and found out that half the stores and most of the restaurants had closed due the end of the season back around Labor Day, so there was only one restaurant open, by the lake, and it required reservations for dinner.  Or so they said, and that we could go without a reservation, but the wait might be up to an hour.

We got all our stuff into our room, trekked in the dark to the restaurant, brought along reading material and waited our time out in the bar.  We were so hungry then we didn't really care, and I got sliders and John got a burger when we finally got a table, and the walk back to the room was very dark. I was glad I had my flashlight capability in my new cell phone.

The next morning, we got up good and early and headed toward the Canyon Area, which neither of us had really taken the time to look at before.  The drive by the lake was eerie with steam from semi-dead steam features, and there was an amazing bank along part of the lake that just bubbled and steamed in the early morning chill. The lake itself was as still as glass, and reflected everything above and around it.

Along the way we saw Elk and Bison and lots of things out in early shadows of the trees and forest, though there was an entire group of elk out on an open point into the water. A bull elk with them was bugling away and banging his antlers into a dead tree.

The Canyon had two streets along both the south and north rim and we first went along the South Rim. John had initially planned on going on a hike there, but the main station and the entire trail had been closed for maintenance.  So, instead, we went right for Artist's Point.

Given the name, I packed up all my art gear and thought I'd be able to sit and paint something, though I wasn't quite sure what.  When we arrived, there were hundreds and hundreds of people already there, and while I got to see what it was that I was supposed to want to paint, there were so many people there it would have been impossible to set up a quiet spot to actually paint there.  Instead, we decided to just take some pictures and get away to the North Rim.  I did, however, get a good idea of why someone would want to paint there.

The walls of the Canyon are lined with yellow stone, which is where the park gets its name from. I hadn't ever really thought about it before, but the hot pools, steam vents, mud pots, and volcanic bits aren't exactly always yellow in color, though some of the hot water critters make the sulfur pools that color.  This is why the park is called what it is.



We tried the North Rim as well. And found the steep path that went down to the verge of the lower falls.  It was easy going down, except on my toes in my hiking boots, which banged a bit against the front of my boots.  Ouch.  Going up was a lot of work, but the view was pretty amazing from the verge.  Lots and lots of water heading straight down.
From there we headed north, along the roads toward the Mammoth Hot Springs, this was road that we'd done before with Jet, back when he was much smaller, and when we'd gone through then a lot of the forests had burned down.

This time we got to see all the teenage trees, just a little younger than Jet.  It was very cool to see them all coming back like this.

We got another look at the falls from a different angle and then kept going up, stopping at a picnic area to eat some of our cheese and crackers.  It was thickly wooded and two birds came up to check us out.  The blue jay (?) hopped right up on the table and tried to help himself to some of our food.



It was interesting to get that up close and personal with them.

Mammoth Springs was interesting, because the last time we'd been there, I remember Minerva Springs, the one at the very top, flowing like crazy, and this time it was dry.  There were other pools flowing, but none of them were nearly as impressive, and the dry, crumbling tiers were very different than when they're live and flowing.  We wandered around a lot, and then went looking for the son of an old classmate of ours.  He was supposed to be working in the Mammoth Springs area, and we wandered from store to restaurant to store and ended up at the closed dining hall, where staff were setting up for dinner.  His father had said "He's not small." as a description and there was a young man we could see through the windows that did, indeed, fit that description, so we went in and sure enough it was him!!

That was so cool to actually find him!

On the way back to Grant Village we stopped at the steam pots by the lake and John helped me paint the scene we found there. That was actually a lot of fun, to just sit and sketch with watercolors the color of the sky, water (which was getting whipped up with the late afternoon wind), and the steamy waters right at the edge.




The night before I'd made a point of making us a reservation for 7 pm, when the sun was going to set.  And this time we were able to actually see the view.  It was really nice, and of all of Yellowstone Lake.  After the full day of hiking and a super simple lunch, it was nice to indulge in some chicken, pasta, and desserts.

We left early the next morning for home (the very first picture is that of dawn the morning we left), and headed south through Grand Teton National Park.  It surprised me a little that we didn't have to pay anything to cross the borders into the other park, but I guess it make sense since they're all part of the same system.  We did, however, manage to find some amazing places to take pictures of the Grand Teton itself.  There were a lot more deciduous trees there than there had been in Yellowstone itself.  The blaze of yellow from all the aspens was amazing.

We stopped at DairyLand for lunch, and I had these things called "cheesewheels" for lunch. *laughs* They were burger and cheese mixed together, breaded, and deep fried. It was quite interesting, but when we finally got home Monday evening, we went to Fuzzy's Tacos and had tacos and that really made it feel like home.  xD

It was a really fun trip with lots of amazing things to see. And I'm grateful we were as lucky as we were in everything we got to see.