Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Coussoules' Great Western Adventure: Day 8, Second Day at Yellowstone

After catching up on a little bit of sleep and getting into the park around 9am on Day One, we changed course and got up early to be headed in the gate by 7:00. We had seen a ton of amazing stuff on Wednesday, but very little wildlife. We figured we'd increase our chance to see more of the iconic animals of Yellowstone if we were in the heart of the park early in the day.

We were right; before we even turned north, we encountered the first elk of the day, this time a group that included two fawns that still had their spots:
We were also surprised by roadwork; my guess is that the winter weather coupled with the 3,000,000+ summer visitors must wreak havoc on the roads, and there is a constant need for repair. We felt fortunate - we were on the roads so early, we were some of the first to get delayed after the road reopened at 7am! As we carefully made our way through the one lane construction area, we realized this was a major project, looking like a road widening. It seemed odd to have so much heavy machinery in a park known for maintaining the natural beauty of the surroundings, but at the same time, knowing how many people are in the park every summer, there is clearly a need for wider thoroughfares.
Having explored the Old Faithful area as fully as we could manage in the one allotted day, we headed north this time to the Mammoth Hot Springs area of the park. I expected to see more fascinating thermal hot spots from the road, and trees lining most of the drive. The park surprised me once again, though, with different landscapes than we had seen the day before. We stopped at one of the many falls in the park, getting some photos as the sunrise began to blanket the mountains:
Not long after making it through the construction area, we came across just what we were looking for: bison! He was just ambling down the road, totally unperturbed by the vehicles and the gawking tourists.
He was here first, I suppose.

We spent much of the day driving, as the Mammoth Hot Springs area is in the north part of the park. The sights were very different than toward Old Faithful; rockier, more dramatic, several waterfalls along the way. The bluffs and boulders gave way to open meadows and rolling hills; all of it spectacular, all of it a feast for the eyes. When we got to the Mammoth Hot Springs area, it was another opportunity to see the thermal activity up close, walking the boardwalks and seeing the springs and hot spots at work.
We stopped and talked to one of the Park Rangers, too. How did I miss out on this career opportunity?!
We made our way up to Fort Yellowstone at the north end of the park, and on to the famous arch welcoming all who visit:
Some of the can't-miss-them sights to see in Yellowstone are the Upper and Lower Falls, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. I think the waterfalls in the park may have been my favorite part about Yellowstone; someday, if I'm ever able to go back and spend a lot more time in the park, I'd like to hike closer to the water and just sit and listen to it run between its banks.
Caroline and I decided to take the trail all the way down to the side of the Lower Falls, and as she said, despite the steep hike back up, it was totally worth it!!

This was our day to see wildlife; there were pronghorn sheep near the north arch, a bison in the sun on one of the scenic loops we took, and even one of Yellowstone's famous black bears barely visible in the tall grass.
The wildflowers were remarkable; I'm sure I only saw some of the different varieties, but they were absolutely beautiful.
After an early start and a long day, we headed back to the cabin for a quick pit stop and then on to dinner - in IDAHO!! We couldn't be this close to Idaho and not go there; why miss an opportunity to cross another state off the list?! Thanks to TripAdvisor, we found a restaurant about a half hour away, enjoyed the beautiful drive, and had a great dinner.
The wildlife viewing continued; I saw a trumpeter swan on Henry's Fork of the Snake River, apparently a rare sighting, and we felt really lucky that we had decided to make the drive!
Back to the cabin after dinner with rain looming, but showers didn't stop the smores celebration. The fire pit right outside our cabin made it easy, and it was the perfect ending to another exciting day in Yellowstone!

No comments:

Post a Comment