Yellowstone

You can’t drive through Montana without visiting Yellowstone National Park, so we headed down to West Yellowstone, MT to reconnect with Jim’s parents.

Yellowstone has four entrances, with the west entrance closest to a real town (West Yellowstone). We rented a cabin at Yellowstone Cabins and RV in town. Despite visiting after Labor Day during the time of corona, Yellowstone was pretty busy!

We were in the park by 8:15am where we were soon graced with a view of an elk heard grazing in a meadow. After about another 45 minutes, we made our first stop at Grand Prismatic Spring.

Aerial view of the spring

It was a chilly morning (28 degrees at sunrise), so the hot thermal features were letting off thick clouds of steam. Unfortunately this prohibited us from getting a good view of the spring, but it still made for an interesting walk.

Still about 35 degrees
Excelsior Geyser

From here we hurried to the Old Faithful Lodge to beat the crowds for the best show in Yellowstone – the Old Faithful geyser. Old Faithful erupts every 60-100 minutes, and we had plenty of time to find a good seat for the next eruption.

Old Faithful Lodge in the background
Happy happy happy

We also enjoyed seeing some of the other thermal features around Old Faithful.

Despite 👆🏻 cute face, James was a world-class grump this morning 👇🏻

Grumpy James

Thankfully he fell asleep from 11am-12:30pm 👍🏻

James finally decides to nap in the car during our Yellowstone visit.

While James slept, we drove past a herd of elk in Yellowstone Lake…

…And two bucks battling it out.

We also walked through the West Thumb Geyser Basin while he slept in the car and Grandma stayed behind with him.

Lake Yellowstone behind the thermal feature.

Jack had been complaining most of the morning because he wanted to see bubbling mud. Thankfully our next stop was the Mud Volcano. (James woke up in better spirits.)

“Boiling mud” at the Mud Volcano
The Dragon’s Den feature was also a big hit.

We then stopped along the Yellowstone River for a picnic lunch before continuing on to the Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls. We hiked to see them along the south rim.

You can see where the name “yellow stone” came from.
Near Artist Point.
Cappy says this picture can go on the cover of Grandfather Magazine.

We made one more stop at Artist Paint Pots before heading out of the park for a hearty dinner.

Artist Paint Pots
More boiling mud 👍🏻

In addition to the elk, we did see a few lone bison in the distance, but I was ultimately dissatisfied with the amount of wildlife we were able to see. During my last visit to Yellowstone in 2004, I saw countless herds of bison, a grizzly bear with a cub, a black bear, and a wolf! Jim and I decided to drive back through the park with Jack and Evie the next day on our way to Victor, ID to see if we might encounter anything special along the way. James went with John, Angie, and the camper on the most direct route.

We did see one bison bull close to the road but no large herds.

Bison behind the trees.

We hiked to Riddle Lake to get some exercise and break from driving. During the hike we saw a bald eagle and another unidentified raptor.

Hiking to Riddle Lake
Riddle Lake with tiny speck of bald eagle.
Unidentified raptor. Possibly a juvenile bald eagle.

We then bid farewell to Yellowstone and stopped at Lake Jackson for a picnic lunch.

Picnic spot: Lake Jackson and the Grand Tetons. Note the hazy sky from west coast forest fires.

Our route to Victor, ID took us past the entirety of the Grand Tetons, along the outskirts of Jackson Hole, WY, and across the Teton Pass.

Grand Tetons near Jackson Hole, WY

We look forward to exploring this beautiful area over the next few days.

Post-script

We spent our half day in West Yellowstone, before our visit to the actual park, visiting the Grizzly and Wolf Center and the zip line park.

Grizzly and Wolf
Two rough-legged hawks on top; turkey vulture and red tailed hawk on bottom
Zip Lining

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