The morning we were to enter Yellowstone National Park was cloudy and cold, of course it was mid-September in the mountains. We made our way through the southern edge of Montana, and stopped in Silver Gate at the Log Cabin Cafe for a quick bite. There was a chance of precipitation in the forecast, but we were not about to let that dampen our spirits. With our hungers satisfied, we headed off toward the park entrance. So started our second leg of our Rocky Mountain Journey. (Read Part One here>)
As we traveled we began to see more things that told us we were far from home. The mountains were more than enough to make this obvious, but then we ran across this sign, that certainly took it to a new level. There are plenty of various creatures roaming the plains, but not this particular species.
We passed through the park entrance, after paying our admission. The rangers were very courteous, and provided plenty of informational guides to assist us in our visit. The temperature had slowly dropped, and as we pulled to the side to take a photo of the entrance sign, it began to snow. Although it was only flurries, it still made for a memorable experience.
Almost immediately after entering the park we were welcomed by a small herd of buffalo. These mighty creatures wander where they wish, and when they choose to cross over you get stuck in a unique traffic jam. Of course, none of the visitors seemed to mind, since they were getting a bird’s eye view of the slow moving animals.
In Yellowstone it is common to be driving along, and suddenly come upon a crowd of cars pulled off to the side. We quickly learned to pull over, as well. Usually the stoppage was due to either a fantastic view, which were usually noted on the maps, or some form of wildlife. It was interesting to see the variety, even in this cooler weather period. Sometimes the animals are quite easy to make out.
Then there are times that it is a little more difficult. In one instance, we rounded a corner to find a handful of cars parked on the curb. We joined them, but could not see what they were looking at. Finally, Crystal pointed out what she thought was a bear on the mountainside. Once again we were glad to have a camera with a good zoom feature. The distance was so great that those with point & click cameras could not make out any more than a small dot. As I reviewed my captures I had a small group scrambling to see on my screen what they had missed. Note to self: always take the good camera.
The wildlife were so prevalent that we even found them in the tourist areas. In Mammoth, near the general store, we found this adult male elk resting on the lawn. I realized after taking the picture just how majestic it made the animal appear. Some moments are just being in the right place.
The first day flew by, and we barely scratched the upper half of the park. Our lodging for the night was in the little town of West Yellowstone, Montana. Located just on the west side of the park, this place is a tourist attraction all of its own. We spent the evening wandering the shop lined streets looking for just the right souvenir to capture the memories of our day.
Morning brought the promise of a beautiful day of exploring. The sunshine was helping to brighten our spirits, and a big breakfast at Running Bear Pancake House helped fuel our desire to get back out on the road. Soon we were back in the park, and continuing where we had left off.
We don’t know how many waterfalls and rapids exist in Yellowstone, but there were plenty to constantly mesmerize us. Many of these cut through a large ravine, which was appropriately named the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone”. Some are small, and gently roll across askew stones, while others are very grand and plummet large distances, crashing with a roar. All of them are amazing in their own way, and we spent a good portion of the day hunting them down.
All of this water found its way down to Yellowstone Lake near the southern end of the park. This is where our lodging for the night ended up being located, so we made our way toward it. As the day drew to an end, we knew the next day would hold even more wonders. Our lodging was close to the shoreline, and we had noticed a waterfront restaurant when we checked in, so we headed down to find some food. We never expected to be treated to such a fantastic view, while we dined.
After a little exploring nearby, we finally headed to our cabin for the night. After such a busy day we had no problem sleeping like logs. The next morning we woke early, as is our usual pattern. It also helps that we were on Mountain time, which gave us the extra hour. We headed out to begin our day, and were treated to a sunrise over the lake that was breathtaking. I am unsure how long we sat there watching, but eventually we made our way to breakfast.
This day was to be spent exploring the southern region of Yellowstone, which has a considerable amount of geysers, mud-pots, and steam vents. Not long after hitting the road we spotted one of our first vents. We were so excited, but did not realize the minuscule scale of this one versus what we were to see later.
An obvious stop for almost every visitor to Yellowstone Park is the Old Faithful Geyser. Aptly named, because the time of eruption is fairly predictable. Here the water spews over 130 feet in the air. While it is the most famous geyser in the park, it is not the only one. There are actually about 500 geysers in the park, which is the largest number in any single region in the world. We spent a large portion of the morning attempting to locate as many as we could.
This search took us through the three main geyser basin areas; Upper, Midway, and Lower. This area is packed full of more waterfalls, lots of thermal activity, and some very unique sights. The bubbling mud-pots were an amusing stop, as they burped and plopped. The landscape around them looking almost like another world. The location that really captured our interest was the Midway Basin, which is home of the Grand Prismatic Spring. This area has a collection of hot springs with a wooden walkway offering visitors a close up chance to observe, but getting a little further away offers an even better perspective of the scene.
Too soon it was time for us to set our sights southward, and out of the park. We are sure that a person could stay a month in the park, and still find areas that they never realized existed. The beauty of Yellowstone seems to be unending.
As we passed through the southern exit, we bid goodbye to Yellowstone National Park. Although we knew that we only scratched the surface of what it held, we also knew that we had many more sights to see in front of us.