However, I also really didn't realize how beautiful the drive would be. While our plan originally had been to stay in Greybull, which is in the Bighorn Mountains, I guess I didn't really consider how lovely the drive through those mountains would be. I became extra grateful that we stopped early the night before, because driving through those mountains in the dark (with a camper, no less) would have felt treacherous. But also because we would have missed the sights.
Because we were trying to make decent time on the way to Yellowstone, we barely stopped but the pictures taken just from the car windows hopefully convey some of the beauty.
|At one point we basically passed between two rainstorms.|
|After all the ups and downs, it was nice to go through the mountain for a change.|
I think it was about a 4-5 hour drive until we got to the gate of Yellowstone itself, and from there it was about another 45 minutes to the campground. But it was a truly beautiful 45 minutes.
|This dude was hanging out right at the side of the road. Also, the "DO NOT PET THE BUFFALO" signs that are everywhere are totally for me. I absolutely wanted to pet the buffalo.|
We got to the campsite and realized that, like most of the National Parks, there were no water or electric hook ups. I thought there were. Whoops. But, no matter, we had stuff in the camper that could run on battery power, and it's easier to wash dishes in a dishwashing station anyway. So we set up shop, made dinner, and roasted ourselves some s'mores.
The next day was our big "explore Yellowstone" day. We packed a lot in.
On the drive to our very first spot we saw a bear. So cool.
|I did not try to pet the bear. I showed great restraint.|
We started by going to one of the sulfur springs areas, specifically Mud Volcano. There's about a 1/2 mile walk, all on a boardwalk, that takes you past some really neat examples of different types of hot spring systems. And they all stink like rotten eggs.
|He actually wasn't really exaggerating.|
|This one was called Dragon Tongue and between what it looked like and the noise it made, it was a perfect name.|
|Mud Volcano. It's hard to see from the picture, but it almost looked as though the mud were boiling.|
|Aren't we cute? And cold.|
It was a short little hike, but nice to see the drastic difference between that and the sulfur springs.
On our way back we saw another buffalo, and we saw an elk!
|I'll be honest, I was hoping for a moose, but this was still pretty impressive.|
Although it had been cold and damp all afternoon, we pushed through and took the kids to a "Youth at Yellowstone" Ranger led program so that they could earn their Junior ranger badges. Between the late night, early morning, and lots of activity, they were pretty cooked, so we bribed them with ice cream so that we could see just a little more of the park.
It worked pretty well and we went to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and walked part-way down, before a) deciding the kids would mutiny on the way back up and b) it started to pour rain. Still, it was really neat to see.
That night we scraped together another fire, had dinner, and bundled up in about 30 layers for bed, as it was getting down into the 40s, which is WAY too cold, as far as I was concerned.
Originally the plan had been to swing by Old Faithful on our way out of the park the next morning. But that would have added about an hour to our drive, and was no guarantee that we were actually going to see the eruption. So we left via the West exit, seeing some more beautiful stuff on our way instead.
We drove all the way to the southern tip of Idaho, which was a) much more populous and b) much prettier than I had expected. We were supposed to go to Craters of the Moon, but as that would have made the drive to Reno 562 instead of 462 miles, we went to Jerome, ID instead, which offered a lovely hotel with a pool.
All in all, Yellowstone was great. If we had stayed for more days and stayed in more spots, no doubt we could have seen much more. But I think that we got a nice little cross section of what the park had to offer, which was good for us.
After Idaho came Reno, which was extremely different, as you can no doubt guess, and also very fun. And from Reno, where we leave tomorrow, we head off to San Francisco, which brings us back to friends and city adventures. And we will have hit the other coast, which is pretty exciting in and of itself.
Next up: Reno.
For more Yellowstone pictures, click here