Saturday, June 4, 2016

Yellowstone National Park

Well, I didn't get eaten by a bear in the backcountry last night, so today is already off to a good start!

We both woke up around 3am to what we thought could have been a bear, but apparently was just a car. 

I peeked out of my curtains around 7am and saw blue skies and sunshine. 

Checked the bear box, and no damage to that. No bears last night!

Bren made us some oatmeal for breakfast, and I provided the toppings again (frozen strawberries and blueberries from the cooler).  We were feeling lazy and had talked about running last night, but it didn't happen.  So we did a little workout there around the campsite.  Walking lunges, squats, tricep dips off the picnic bench, push-ups, bicep curls with water jugs...just whatever we could come up with to get our heart rate up a little and feel better about ourselves. 

We took off for Yellowstone a little after 8.  I followed Bren in her van through the forested area between the Tetons and Yellowstone, a gorgeous drive the whole way.

I'm not near patient enough to wait in line to take a picture by a sign, so we didn't even stop.  I just took this through the window as we cruised by.  

The line to get in the park from the south entrance really wasn't long at all.  Just three cars ahead of us.  I guess it was early in the morning, and that is not one of the more popular entrances.  So we lucked out there.

The mosquitos were terrible around the entrance, and I had to pay, so I just bought the annual pass for all national parks.  Surely I will visit a few more parks in the next year to make up for that.  But anyways, that took some time, and I was getting swarmed with mosquitos!  I wasn't happy with the guy working for taking his sweet time while I was fending for myself swatting at everything in sight!

The drive through the park just got better and better around every curve.  I don't know how many times we swerved to the side to hop out and snap a few pictures...

Lewis Lake

Our first stop was the Canyon Visitor Center because the map said they had phone service, and Bren needed to check on her missing GoPro.  And we had no idea what we were going to do for the day.  Neither of us had done any research  yet.  So this would give us a chance to talk to some rangers at the center and check out some maps.

There was a nice view of Yellowstone Lake from this visitor center, and they had lots of "Top 3" lists -- thermal areas, summits, hikes, waterfalls.  It was exactly what we needed! 

After some phone time for Bren (my phone didn't work), and some map/ranger time for me, we hit the road down to the West Thumb Geyser Basin to check it out -- per the park rangers recommendation. 

And we were both so glad we stopped!  It wasn't on our radar from just looking at the map, but man, it was just gorgeous!  I couldn't stop taking pictures!!  I've never seen anything like it before.  The colors of the thermal pools were just crazy!  

We walked all along the boardwalks through the area...and took just a few too many pictures before hopping back in the car to see what else there was to see.  We decided to just drive all the way through the park today and stop wherever we wanted along the way.  No long hikes today or any big plans.  Just make it as far as we can up north and then head down back south to camp tonight.

Bren was now following me, because I liked to stop probably a lot more than she would.  And I had looked at the map and had a little better idea of where things were and what I wanted to see.  Thankfully she was okay with me slamming on the brakes and just whipping the car over to the side of the road every couple of minutes.

The Mud Volcano Area looked interesting on the map, but it was pretty over-run with tourists, so we didn't last long.  It didn't hold a candle to the West Thumb Geyser Basin anyways.  The coolest thing there was a wild bison just hanging out next to the boardwalk, not interested in the least bit in all of the tourists taking its picture.

Churning Caldron: a big bubbling mud pit that smelled awful:


Bren and I had noticed there was a beautiful area just across the street (literally) from the parking lot for the mud volcano area.  And not one person was over there!  So we ran across the road, hiked down the hill, and found pure beauty:

Why people wouldn't' just cross the street to have this to themselves, I have no idea.  But we sure enjoyed it! 

The day of driving -- and stopping continued.  Through a beautiful valley with lots of wild animals just roaming around.

Around one corner, we saw tons of people up on a hill, and cars just lined the road.  Of course we had to stop to see what was going on.  So we rushed up the hill with everyone else doing the same...all to find out there was a mama bear and her half a mile away!  Ha!  I mean people had binoculars out to look at them!  I assume they were closer at one point, but by the time we got there, you could just barely see a little speck on the horizon!  But still, all of those people were looking and taking pictures!


Our next stop was the at the Upper and Lower waterfalls of the Yellowstone River.  It's rare for me to pass up a waterfall, so yeah, we had to stop.  I took them in from an okay vantage point, definitely not on any path and down a steep little hill.  

But Bren absolutely one-upped me and walked out across the rocks to a little point.  It looked awesome, and the pictures she got with my GoPro were pretty cool!

While I was waiting or her to hike back to me, I noticed a guy sitting on the other side of the falls, feet dangling off a little rock.  Not one to be completely out done, I ran to my car, drove down the road and across the bridge, and then ran down the trail to find that very spot.  Bren waited for me at the lookout and snapped a few pics of me once I finally got over there!

We continued the drive up north through Yellowstone, and stopped a few more times for some wild animals in another valley.


The road kept going up and up and up...and it got colder and colder and colder.  There was so much snow up top!

But what goes up, must go down.  And on to warmer temperatures, thank goodness!

We stopped for lunch at the Yellowstone General Store near the Tower Junction...along with half of the people in Yellowstone apparently! The place was packed, not just with cars but with some tour buses, too.

But we found a little picnic bench and had our lunch.  I had more tuna and chips, and Bren got out her stove and made some eggs to put on her rice cakes with cottage cheese.  And wouldn't you know it, those two  older people sitting on the bench behind Bren just happened to be Dutch as well!  She overheard them say something in Dutch and started talking them.  Crazy.

There was a little hike to a nearby waterfall that we went to check out, but we were both disappointed.  We laughed that we are both such spoiled brats now.  We've both seen so many amazing waterfalls that now we are like, "Oh, hmmm, yeah that's okay," and then just walk away, haha!  We weren't too impressed with that one.

Nor far down the road, there was more drama.  Tons and tons of people pulled over, some just stopping in the middle of the road.  And all for what?  Another bear.  Of course.  We didn't even stop this time.  We already know how that goes... a little spot off in the distance.  No thank you.

I did snap this from the road though as we drove on through.  It's just a bear, people!  Has no one ever seen a bear before!?

We pulled over again for another small waterfall view.  Bren made this one interesting by climbing a tree to get a better look at it!  (Some old men there were NOT impressed with her climbing antics and told her all about it!)

By mid-afternoon, we had finally made it all the way to the north entrance at Mammoth  Hot Springs.  It was the most like a "town" we had seen in the park and is where the employees live.  The crazy thing was the elk just hanging out all over!  I mean they did NOT care that there were humans around as they just lounged under trees and on sidewalks! 


The visitor center there had wifi, so we spent some time there so Bren could check in on her missing GoPro (still no word on where it might be!) and I tried to upload some pictures to the blog, but the wifi was too slow for that.  So we took off again.

Next stop:  the Moose Bogs because they just looked beautiful as we drove past and Bren wanted a good hammock picture with some mountains in the background.  We were hopeful we could find a spot near here just for that.

But of course we couldn't find a spot from right there.   We decided to just wander off the path a little ways, cross some water, keep on walking across a field until we found another stream...and decided we should probably stop.


Quote of the day from Bren:  "I will put my shoes on now in case we have to run."  We were walking around an open field in the middle of nowhere...where we definitely weren't supposed to be. 

We found a beautiful spot along the water, but no two trees were good for a hammock picture, so we just enjoyed where we were anyways.

Until we saw bear prints right next to where we were sitting.  Then we decided to high-tail it out of there before we saw something - or someone - we didn't want to see!

And sure enough, not far down the road, a mama bear and her cute little baby cub were right in the middle of the road as I came around a curve!  I literally screamed out loud and was in such shock I couldn't get my phone ready fast enough to take a picture!  That was the exact reason we didn't want to be down where we were...those bears!

We kept driving south, towards Norris where we wanted to try and camp for the night.  The terrain changed so much and at a couple of places we stopped I felt like we were on another planet!


We pulled in to Norris around 6pm, and all we wanted to do was shower.  Unfortunately, that campsite didn't have showers.  The closest one that did was 13 miles away at Canyons -- back east where we had already been.  But we were desperate for cleaning up, so we hopped in my car and headed that way, hoping for some phone service at that spot, too, since there wasn't any at Norris.

When we got to the shower building, the person who was supposed to be working the desk wasn't sitting there, so we both quickly ran in the locker/changing/bathroom area and enjoyed nice, long, hot showers for free!

I don't normally love showers, and I especially don't like to wash my hair, but that shower did feel pretty good.  First one I'd had since leaving home on Sunday!

With clean, wet hair on both of us, we drove back to the Norris campground (oh, no phone service or wifi anywhere at Canyons), and fixed some dinner.  Actually, BREN made dinner while I cleaned out the cooler after I spilled salsa in it.  Ugh.

Another freeze dried camp meal and veggie burgers and some green beans Bren had.  Honestly, it was one of the best meals I've had in awhile!  Delicious!

Would have been a little better if the dang mosquitos weren't trying to eat me alive, but that's how it goes camping I guess.  I spent most of the meal speed walking around and swatting to keep them away from me.  ...  Meanwhile, they didn't bother Bren one bit!

The area around the Norris campground is just gorgeous.  A short little stroll down the hill lead us to this water way and a big open field where some bison and elk were grazing.  We were going to drive to find a good spot for sunset, but we were both pretty tired, and this spot right by us wasn't too bad.

Before it got dark, we moved our cars to two spots over by the walk-in camp sites when they opened up.  There was one car in between us, but we were just happy to have found two spots close to each other!  Otherwise we were going to have to park up by the bathrooms and we were pretty sure we would get caught up there.

After a walk through the campsites, we were standing by our cars admiring the numerous campfires and trying to decide if we should just go to sleep for the night.  Bren really wanted to sit by a fire for a few minutes (I could have gone for some smores), and there were numerous ones with two guys sitting around them.  Easy enough.  Off we went, struck up a conversation, and warmed up by the fire with two guys who work at Jackson Hole Resort during the winters.  Even talked them in to taking a picture of us!

We were so nervous to sneak in to our cars to sleep that neither one of us even said goodnight! We were going to hop in, change clothes, and then go to the bathroom and talk about our plan for the morning.  But neither one of us got back out because we didn't want to turn the lights on again in the car and allow someone to see we were sleeping in them!  I hung my curtains up as fast as I could and only briefly turned on my tiny reading light to find clothes to sleep in before falling fast asleep in the parking lot.

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