Did you know …
Yellowstone National Park (YNP) is the first National Park in the world. It was established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. It is located mostly in Wyoming (I’m sure some people are like ‘who??’ lol), with some parts in Idaho and Montana. Needless to say, it is a very beautiful place and a must see! Check out this wikipedia page for more interesting information about it.
In true ohtheplacesshellgo fashion, I designed this trip to minimize the number of vacation days expended and this is how I did it: Luckily, during the summer, my workplace lets us get off work at 3pm on Fridays. After work, I flew to Bozeman, MT, one of the closest major airports to YNP. I got there at about 9pm so I spent the night there, in a hostel– again in true ohtheplacesshellgo fashion, being
The next morning, I drove about 2 hours to West Yellowstone, MT the town right outside YNP on the west side (duh!) to meet up with my friends. Spent Saturday and Sunday in YNP, and then the morning of Monday, drove to Grand Teton National Park and spent the whole day there. Tuesday morning, I drove about 5 hours back to Bozeman, MT, made my ~10 minute layover in Minneapolis and arrived back home at about midnight! By Wednesday morning, I was back at work–only 2 vacation days used. Boom!
Saturday morning, bright and early, the 3 of us made our way into the park full of excitement and energy. I can’t even begin to describe the beauty. Not only is it beautiful, but there is just so much of it all at once, everywhere you look. Vivid blues and greens, perfect weather, clear lakes, swift rivers, amazing waterfalls …
The park is HUGE so we spent a lot of time just driving through it, which was fine by me. That was a treat all in itself. There are also ample pullouts along the side of the roads– perfect for taking selfies, I mean taking a closer look at nature and wildlife 🙂
Saturday was mostly spent viewing geothermal features– geysers, springs, mudpots. All of them unique, most of them pretty, and some quite stinky (due to sulfur compounds). But hey, that’s all part of the adventure. One of the most popular and highly photographed ones, the Grand Prismatic Spring, had a lot of crowds for obvious reasons. But we still managed to conduct a photo shoot to our hearts’ content.
A quick note– in person, it won’t look exactly like the pictures on the internet for several reasons- the internet pictures are taken from right above it and most likely you will be standing right beside it- so different perspective. Second, the pictures on the internet were probably taken a while ago before humans do what they do in terms of pollution and were also taken in ideal weather (lighting) conditions. So don’t be disappointed if your pictures don’t come out like you’d hoped or just like the ones on the internet. It’s still amazing to look at in person though; just go early in the day to beat the crowds.
We also hiked to Mystic falls which I thought it would be a short hike. In miles, it was, but in reality, it was at least 2 hours of hard climbing with LOTS of MOSQUITOES like I had never seen before– and I grew up in Nigeria, mosquito capital, so that’s saying something. No one had ever mentioned this issue in all my discussions about my trip with people who had been there. It was constant slapping ourselves all over our bodies the entire hike! However, the views were worth it.
Next was to go see Old Faithful, another popular attraction at YNP. It is a geyser whose time of eruption is highly predictable (within +/- 10 minutes) and lots of people congregate to watch the ‘show’– so get there early! Some fun facts: eruptions can shoot 3,700 to 8,400 US gallons (14,000 to 32,000 L) of boiling water to a height of 106 to 185 feet (32 to 56 m) lasting from 1 1⁄2 to 5 minutes. The average height of an eruption is 145 feet (44 m). Intervals between eruptions can range from 35 to 120 minutes, averaging 66.5 minutes in 1939, slowly increasing to an average of 90 minutes apart today. It was really a sight to behold and was worth the wait (while I was there, it happened at the +10 minute interval).
That evening, I saw a bison for the first time–just chilling, grazing, minding it’s business. It was really far away and I tried to get a clear picture but it just looked like a picture of me with a dark dot to the top left of my shoulder. lol. Little did I know that I would see many more bison on that trip– so much so that I wouldn’t even feel the need to take pictures of them anymore.
Saturday night, we slept in Madison Campground. I purposely bought a tent and practiced pitching it before I went on the trip. We camped the first night because by the time we were booking the trip, all the other accommodation at the park was full that night. I’m glad it worked out this way though because I got to experience camping and sleeping outdoors while constantly nursing the fear of a bear attack! The campground also had a park ranger event that night which was quite interesting. The park ranger had a fire going and told Native American folklore.
The next day was Canyon day. We visited the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Having visited Grand Canyon National Park before, I was prepared to not be as impressed but boy, I tell you– it may not be THE Grand Canyon, but it is grand for sure. It’s just different, but beautiful in its own way. And very yellow 🙂 The Yellowstone River runs through it and there are 2 waterfalls (or technically one split in two?) very creatively named the Upper and Lower Falls.
There are several trails in this part of the park but we hiked Uncle Tom’s trail which is basically a series of hundreds of steps down into the canyon (and back up). It was very strenuous but we made it- with a lot of rest, snack, water, and selfie breaks.
On this day, I ate a Bison burger. I had never eaten Bison before. Surprisingly, it didn’t taste seriously weird– just a little weird.
After that recharge, we were ready for more hiking and decided to hike Mt. Washburn. After a few minutes of hiking, we decided we weren’t feeling it, plus it was a long hike so we decided to head back down to the car. No kidding, immediately we got into the car, it started hailing hard. We were so lucky; we would have been caught at the top of the mountain in a hail storm.
Next we decided to check out the Mammoth Hot Springs area in the north side of the park and on our way, we encountered slow traffic. As we got closer, we saw a lot of park rangers looking extremely serious and busy and a lot of people with cars parked along the road- but nothing else. We guessed there must be a bear in the vicinity but since we couldn’t see anything, we kept moving. Till the next slow down. This time, we saw the black bear. But barely. So we joined numerous others who had parked their cars along the street, crossed the road and went to get a better view.
Everyone had their cameras and phones out– some even had binoculars and I wished I had a pair myself. It was really far away, but it was a bear alright. My first bear sighting! We were really excited and scared because we felt at any second, the bear could come charging towards us but we covered it up with lots of giggles and nervous laughter. Earlier in the day, we had begun to think there really weren’t any bears in the park and people were just making up the stories but now we had seen the bear with our own eyes. That was a true highlight of the trip!
We continued the trip up to Mammoth and I must say, I was a bit underwhelmed when we got there. Not sure if it was because I was tired, or the cloudy day, or the fact that a lot of the springs had’died’ and didn’t look all that ‘pretty’. However, it is a popular part of the park, so we spent some time there viewing what was left of it and marveled at the pictures of what the area used to look like many years ago. I’d say still visit the area if you have the time but don’t prioritize it over the other areas of the park. Also, manage your expectations.
We were pretty tired by this point and decided to head to our accommodation for the night- a lodge on Lake Yellowstone! Personally, I was just excited to be sleeping in an actual bed, in a building. Camping was fun, but sleeping in a sleeping bag on the bare ground in 40 F temps isn’t super exciting for multiple days in a row. Good thing I was paying attention to driving because we came across a bear crossing–literally. This huge thing straight up crossed the road 2 cars ahead of me. It was a surreal experience and I’m glad I was fast enough to capture it, as bad as the picture may be, due to trembling hands and my wits temporarily escaping me :).
Monday morning, we had breakfast at the main lodge building and I went ham on the French Toast– they are like the best breakfast things ever! There was a great view of Lake Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons way across the lake. That was the next stop of our trip so it was nice to be able to see some of what we had in store for us.
After breakfast, we got back in the car and began the drive south but of course, stopped in a few places to see some more geysers or springs or whatever the park had to offer. Right outside the park, we took the obligatory picture with the park sign and then a few yards later, took another with the sign for GTNP!
Stay tuned for my next blog post about our adventures at GTNP.
Have you ever been to YNP? What was your favorite part? Where else would you recommend for someone who thoroughly enjoyed YNP (except for GCNP as I’ve already been there)? Let me know in the comments section :).
Till next time, friends, keep adventuring!