Sunday, September 20, 2015

Yellowstone or Bust!!!


The morning after we completed the Center of the Nation Series, we woke up bright and early. After all, we had been getting up every morning by 5:15. I was still feeling a little wistful about the series being over... but luckily, we had something awesome planned for the day .... YELLOWSTONE!!!

Now, look, there's nothing I can tell you about Yellowstone that you don't already know, or haven't already seen. But I wanted to share some of the awesome snapshots we captured over the two days we spent between Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone. 

(So indulge me, okay?)

truly grand

Were up and out of the hotel by 7:30, and soon found ourselves on the edge of Grand Teton National Park. I always feel bad for GTNP. Anywhere else in the country it would be a total showstopper. The way the peaks just rise out of the plains, sans foothills, is astounding. It's absolutely gorgeous. But sitting on the doorstep of Yellowstone... YELLOWSTONE!!! ... well, it is sadly "the park you drive through on your way to or from Yellowstone."

I wish I could tell you that we broke the mold, that we spent quality time there. Because, well, it's amazing. 

But we didn't. 

That said, we spent more time there than I ever had before. We visited their very beautiful visitor center and looked at some of their exhibits. 

We then decided to drive the longer scenic drive along the Teton Park Road, past Jenny Lake. (Not that the "main road" on highway 191 isn't scenic, mind you... but it feels like more of a highway.) We started having our usual "what if we just spent a week or so here?" thoughts that we always have when we're somewhere beautiful. So many places to go, so little vacation time...


Eventually, of course, we reached Yellowstone. I get super nerdy at this sort of place. Not just my usual nerdy, SUPER nerdy. Geysers! Mudpots! Stinky sulfurous vents! BRING IT ON. Oh, and did I mention... BUFFALO!!!!!

We entered the park from the South Entrance (duh), then essentially did not stop until we arrived at Old Faithful. Knowing we would see the geyser there later, we just stopped in at the visitor center (and, well, the gift shop...) to gather information. The main thing I wanted to see was the Grand Prismatic Spring...

You know the one... the improbable / impossible / holy cats that's gorgeous rainbow hot springs. I knew that we wouldn't be able to see it in all its glory -- for that, you need an airplane and a hot day so there's less steam. Then you might see this:

photo courtesy NationalGeographic.com


But I still wanted to see it -- at least from ground level -- to see the colors on the edges. So we drove to the Midway Geyser Basin. On the way there we hit our first "road block" -- a herd of buffalo grazing just across the river from the road. 


Then into the Midway Geyser Basin itself ... well, first a wait for a parking spot, and then we were in...

more buffalo!!!
 We headed straight to the Grand Prismatic Spring... which... well... was steaming mightily in the cold morning air. Yes, you can see some of the color... but for the most part it's not super bright. One reason, I suppose, to brave the Yellowstone crowds in the summer!


It was still pretty fantastic, of course... though the walkway was partially closed ...


Why was the walkway closed? OH!


A ranger was stationed on the boardwalk, turning people around and reminding them that buffalo are dangerous, okay?

After the G.P.S., we headed north toward Madison, stopping to drive Firehole Lake Drive, which was awesome -- no tour buses, no RVs, and hardly any people. We looked at a bunch of bubbling geysers... but decided against waiting this guy out:


Hey, that's only 10 - 24 hours away! (But, seriously, I bet some people were there waiting...)

But hooray for gorgeous, oh-so-inviting water that would scald your skin clean off:



And just general geothermal goodness:






We then decided to head toward the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, to see Inspiration Point and the falls. On the way there we made a lunch stop in Canyon, where we tried to find hot vegetarian food, but ended up just heating up some of the leftovers from the awesome Chinese / Thai food we'd had the night before. (Okay, maybe that microwave was for people to heat up stuff they had purchased at the store, but no one was using it... and we bought a pair of beverages...)


Lunch eaten in the company of some very large ravens (which I cooed and croaked at, because I love them), we then set off to see some more of the pretty. Next stop, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone:



One very sad thing: we saw an elderly man take a tumble on the very uneven path. It could have been much worse, but he fell hard and hit his head. Within seconds he was surrounded by helping hands, and an ambulance came to check him out in under 3 minutes. But it was super scary to see. He seemed like a tough fella -- got right up (with a little help), and probably had a larger bump to his ego. Plus he might have an awesome scar and stories to tell. (Oh, this one? Got it at Yellowstone. Took a tumble! Could have gone over the side!)

Anyway, I keep thinking about him and hope he's doing okay.

After that, well, I just wanted to head back and get settled. Besides, our lodging for the evening was an attraction in and of itself!!!


I had managed to reserve a room in the old part of the Old Faithful Inn -- which was super exciting. I remember staying there as a little kid. Tiny, creaky, wooden room with a sink, and the bathrooms / showers down the hall. Again, we daydreamed a little about staying there for multiple days, just hanging out in the lobby in the evening, watching the geyser erupt from the viewing deck, etc.

The lobby is, of course, spectacular:


Yeah, I know, that doesn't do it justice. But here's something sweet -- the guest rooms all have an adorable little bear soap. You know I took this little fella home:


We checked in to the Inn, were delighted to learn that our dining reservation was in the system (phew!), and then discovered that Old Faithful was going to erupt in the next 30 - 50 minutes. Perfect! Gave us a little time to explore, have a quick drink, and then head out to the viewing platform.

Because it was almost sundown, the area was pretty empty other than hotel guests -- much more pleasant than elbowing for room with the tourbus crowd!






I love that they have this sign behind the front desk, and update it after each eruption.


Then we headed in to the dining room, which is gorgeous:


We were seated in the far back corner, which would have been perfect, but our server was distracted by a couple of large parties nearby. Still, the food was surprisingly good. I mean, it's a captive audience, so the food doesn't have to be great ... but we enjoyed the vegetarian options on the menu... and the huckleberry margarita. (Sour!)

the view from the back corner of the dining room
After dinner we sat in the lobby for a while, then wandered around outside under the stars, hearing a geyser erupt nearby. We then went back to our lovely little room and slept like angels. (Well, until I needed to go to the bathroom at 4am and couldn't find a room key, but that's another story...).

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