I apologise for the length of this post, but I hope when you see the photos of Yellowstone you find it worthwhile! 😊. Top ten things we have learnt over these past few days…
- Don’t wear short socks with walking boots…they’ll rub and you’ll moan!
- Hay-fever and camping really don’t go well together as a combination…no matter how many antihistamines you take.
- Always flush toilets in campsites before sitting/standing…you never know when a massive bug will crawl out and start climbing.
- Boardwalks and umbrellas do not go well together…we nearly went blind.
- Walking trousers are not waterproof….waterproof trousers are waterproof funnily enough!
- Buffalos don’t have wings…they make cheese??
- If it’s raining…wear a coat…hoodies and fleeces aren’t waterproof either.
- In the rain, beautiful places don’t look as pretty as they do on google images…no matter how many pictures you take and how many filters you use.
- Don’t rely on good faith that wet clothes will dry in your bag…they won’t so don’t be lazy and hope for the best…take them out and dry them properly.
- It’s probably best to check the drives through a national park before you get there…that way you may save 60 miles of unnecessary driving
We haven’t showered for two days. My hair is a giant frizzball of dry shampoo. We’re having to dry clothes on the back of the car and hanging up on the headrests. Our tent is broken. We finally remembered to put our walking boots on. We’re knackered but it’s been so worth it!!
We arrived at the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park at about 6pm on Thursday evening. We had stopped at Craters of The Moon National Monument earlier that day to see the three major lava fields that run across the Great Rift of Idaho. The deepest open rift crack in the world is here at 800m deep.
It’s named for its apparent resemblance to the surface of the moon, although the resemblance is a bit far fetched. Below, you can see cinder crags, monoliths, the black sand of the inferno cone, the view from the top of the inferno cone and some great examples of spatter cones. It was quite cool to walk though these solidified lava fields.The rocks on inferno cone were so sparkly One of the spatter conesInferno cone. Very steep! Giant monoliths in the north craterThis tree was alive 50 years ago. Behind is north crater. The view across the north craterView from the top of inferno coneAnother view from the top of inferno coneInside a spatter coneAnother view from the top of inferno cone
We only spent about an hour or so at the monument before embarking on the last few hours to Yellowstone National Park. The worlds first national park, featuring a caldera 640,000 years ago after the last volcanic eruption. Roughly half way into this journey, the bloody oil change light flashed on again! That’s the fourth car now. I’m not even driving so it’s not even anything to do with that!! We got on good old twitter to vent our frustrations and ended up with an email from the manager of enterprise at JFK airport, who was very helpful and informed us they all flash up after 3000 miles to ensure the cars stay in good condition. I can understand that but doesn’t stop it being frustrating. Looks like we will be finishing with five cars!! Maybe they’ll upgrade us to a mustang? Or dodge? Or corvette? We’re not fussy haha! Anyway…
Just outside the west entrance bordering Wyoming and Montana is a cute little town. There were some motels there in case we got stuck finding a campsite again! Fingers crossed that wasn’t going to be the case. I had checked the National Park Service website before entering to see which campsites were full. Thankfully there were still some which weren’t. We headed north up to Mammoth Hot Springs. They’re doing roadworks on part of the road so we had to wait about half an hour in order to get through that part. The scenery was beautiful as we twisted and turned along the roads. We desperately wanted to camp here so we didn’t stop at anything, instead we headed straight to the campsite. As we entered there was a queue of people waiting to register at a campsite and not many spaces left. It got to my turn in the queue and thankfully we were given a site, number 26. Yaaaaaaay!!! It’s only taken 8 weeks for us to be able to camp at one of these big National parks!!
We drove to our pitch for the night, parked up and began to empty the car. We had quite a large site for our little car so the ranger told us if people come in after hours wanting to bunk with us tell them no. If we have any problems send them to site 56 and they’ll sort them out. Bless them, they were two quite older people, I assumed a couple, still pulling fifteen hour days. Fair play to them.
Nathan’s job was th erect the tent, mine was to put all my loose crap (clothes/souvenirs/toiletries) back in my bag. We got a bit distracted to begin with though when we saw we had elk neighbours. They aimlessly wandered into our camp to graze on the bushes and then a bit later a mum and her calf trotted through!I did my bag in no time, however the bottom of my bag was still like a swimming pool from our failed attempt at an ice-filled polystyrene coolbox. Clearly our clothes were wetter than we thought and we probably shouldn’t have left them in there. All we needed was some fabric wash, give it a good shake and we would have our own washing machine. This time instead of just hoping everything would dry, I took it all out, separated what needed washing from what didn’t, then put it all back in…relatively neatly although it will definitely need repacking 😂!
Nathan’s however….I don’t think I have actually met anyone so anal about packing. I mean he got all his stuff into a shoe box like a game of Tetris. I sat there and drank some wine out of my Taco Bell cup, passing tissue paper and Bud when required. He even started repacking his bag almost symmetrical around this box. To those organised or OCD folk it would have been something pretty to watch. For me who just wanted to play phase 10, not so much!We had our sexy changing colour citronella candle lit to stop us getting eaten and cracked on with the game. Sadly I lost, but rest assured I will make my comeback. We retired to our home to watch a bit of the ranch before falling asleep.
A nice elk call at 4am woke me up and I’d spend the next couple of hours tossing and turning determined for another bit of shut eye. Eventually I gave up. Up I got, dressed (it was about 7 degrees Celsius so I opted for my walking trousers, to which my legs didn’t understand what all the extra material on them was as I had lived in shorts for the last few months, a hoody and walking boots), packed the car up, visited the ladies and made sure I flushed first as Nathan told me last night a massive black beetle crawled out the men’s when he went last night, then woke him up. We had the tent away in no time and began our tour of Yellowstone.
First stop, as always, the visitors centre to get our stamp. There was a bit of wifi so we checked in with a few people then went on the hunt for breakfast. Nothing was appealing so cereal bars it was! The road in Yellowstone follows a figure of 8 so it was easy to figure out a route. We wanted to avoid the road between Norris and Mammoth again so we decided to exit via the east entrance we came in. The road is about 142 miles long in total and believe me, any time you set out to spend here, you should probably double it. You stop loads and drive really slowly.
Why? Looking for wildlife! The most spoken words were “cars have stopped what are they looking at?” Or “babe there’s a bear turn round!” It was such a truly magical magical place!! I’ll walk you through our day…
As we drove from Mammoth to Tower, we stopped twice where there were a load of other cars stopped at all angles in places we shouldn’t park. Why? Bears. We had wanted to see bears in the wild since we saw them in the nature park and here we finally could! Admittedly they were quite far away but nevertheless, they were still bears and we could see them! We kept driving and there was a crowd of people at the top of a river overlooking the caldera. Why? There were bears in the rock face, about four of them as well as bighorn sheep at the top! We were too far away to get a photo on my phone but the river was pretty! The further south we headed, the worse the weather was getting. The temperature didn’t get above 9 degrees Celsius, the wind was bitterly cold and the rain was intermittent. Nevertheless, the views were fantastic. We stopped at Tower Falls, named because of the towers atop of the waterfall.We continued south to Canyon village and stopped at the Lower Falls, another thundering waterfall. Here in the trees was also an osprey nest! We couldn’t see it with the naked eye you had to use the zoom on the camera.About half way between Canyon village and Fishing bridge is Mud Volcano. It literally is that too. There’s a boardwalk which takes you all the way around ‘cooking hillside’ to allow you to get close to these weird features. First up was Mud Geyser, which became inactive in the 20th century. Prior to that it would shoot muddy water 50ft in the air every few hours!As you round the corner you pass ‘sizzling basin,’ and ‘churning cauldron,’ both of which used to be cooler and were covered with colourful microorganisms. They look a bit different now! Temperatures are about 73 degrees Celsius!
‘Black dragon’s cauldron’ and ‘sour lake’ were at the top of the walkway. Sour lakes’ water is as acidic as battery acid. Heading back to the parking lot we passed ‘grizzly fumarole’ which changes as per the weather.The last two features we came to were the ‘Mud volcano’ and ‘dragon’s mouth spring.’ The volcano used to be 30ft high and 30ft wide before a violent explosion blew the side out. That’s what we can see today. The spring really sounds and looks like a dragon’s mouth! The steam constantly leaving the mouth makes it look like it’s belching and the water is now a chalky white as opposed to the green it used to be.We stopped for lunch at Grant Village Restaurant. A limited menu and a waitress who literally couldn’t remember anything. First she forgot no ice in my Coke, then she forgot to get the bacon on our burgers, so we ended up with two huge plates with three slices of bacon on, another table she brought the wrong cheque to, and it wasn’t even busy!! It seemed a bit overkill. It looked like they were trying to be a lot more posh than it actually was. You had one person in each corner filling glasses with water, one person seating you, and a few waiters/waitresses everywhere. Eventually though the amount of customers to staff ratio was too much, so they stopped seating people.
After lunch we began the final leg towards Old Faithful. The rain had started to drizzle, not hard, but that really horrible wet rain. Anyway, as we parked we stupidly thought we’d be ok with just our jumpers on. They kept us warm. They didn’t keep us dry. Old Faithful is the first feature you come across as you walk out the parking lot. This area, known as the upper geyser basin, holds the largest number of active geysers in the world.
Geysers have ‘plumbing’ which stop water from getting to the surface freely. The pressure inside increases the further you go down. The water bubbles upward and steam expands as it reaches the top. These confined bubbles eventually lift the water above and overflows the geyser, thus resulting in decreased pressure, in turn violent boiling happens consequently resulting in a huge volume of steam being produced forcing water out, as we see when the geysers erupt.
There are so many geysers here, each one of them different. I can’t remember the names of the ones we took photos of but they looked pretty cool! We walked the ‘old faithful boardwalk’ which is just under a mile long. As we had walked into the area, the rangers had a board up telling us their next predicted old faithful eruption would be at 2:52pm.We walked round the boardwalk for a bit to see some of the other geysers.We decided to hike to the observation point. Allegedly, this was only half a mile long. I think Stevie Wonder must have done the distance measuring because it most definitely wasn’t only 0.5miles! The route was steep and wound up the hills. We passed yellow bellied marmots…and I could see why there were so many fallen trees. I mean you could actually hear the trees creaking in the wind! The best part was as we were about half way, it started raining. Hard. The view from the top was awesome and you could see old faithful. The bad news was we had about half an hour to wait until the predicted eruption. That meant we had to sit and wait in the pouring, cold rain for half an hour. Listening to the chatter around us, people were saying that on Tuesday it didn’t erupt until 20 minutes after the predicted time. We hoped the ranger who did the prediction today was more accurate.
Thankfully he was. About 2:55pm, old faithful erupted. I managed to capture it on video but can’t upload it, so check out my Instagram page to see it. The rain continued to pelt down on us and we were soaked.
Old faithful isn’t the largest or most frequent geyser in the park, but it erupts roughly every ninety minutes lasting between 1 and 5 minutes. It shoots out 3700-8400 gallons of boiling water between 106 and 184 feet high! Spectacular! It was definitely worth the not 0.5 mile hike to the observation point. Stupidly, because we clearly we weren’t wet enough, we decided to walk the long way, back via solitary geyser. We did manage to see this erupt, twice, but the water was meant to shoot 4ft in the air and what we saw didn’t seem that high. Either than or our idea of 4ft is bigger than it actually is? It erupts every 5-7 minutes. Still, the area around it had pretty colours!As we made our way back down we passed ‘doublet pool,’ which was again really colourful. Parts of the water were a milky white, yet others were crystal clear blue. The colours in and surrounding the features are prouduced by thermophiles.As we headed back round the boardwalk we realised that we were only forty minutes away from the next old faithful eruption. Clearly gluttons for punishment today, we decided to go and put our coats on and wait for the next one, this time from right next to it. We got back to the car and hung our jumpers up on the back of our seats, put our coats on and went to explore the visitor centre. This is where we realised that the most beautiful spring, grand prismatic spring, is not here but up at midway basin. After purchasing a picture, because lets face it, with the weather we had we certainly weren’t going to see it in all its glory!
Next stop was the general store before heading back to old faithful. It was still raining and we were still absolutely soaked but again. It was worth it. I had my phone on video ready to hit record at the first sign of the eruption. At about 430, it went off and I hit record…only to find that I have no storage on my phone!!! Gutted. Still, I got to see it and Nathan recorded it. Phew. Again. It’s on my Instagram page. Our time in the upper geyser basin had come to an end and we moved on to midway basin to see the grand prismatic spring. Parking was a nightmare so we parked in the bus only bit. There was another boardwalk to take us round the geysers/springs. But. It was not wide enough for people and umbrellas and small children. The amount of times we nearly knocked a kid off into the water or got our eyes stabbed out by someone unable to operate an umbrella was crazy. You’d also think it would be one way, and generally most of us were following the same direction, but you always get those few idiots who go in the opposite direction just to be awkward.Sadly, there was so much team coming from the grand prismatic spring we couldn’t see the stunningly beautiful colours it normally produces. Back to the car. The weather had put a real downer on parts of the day. We began driving back up north to Madison, then Norris. We then drove east to Canyon Village before heading north back to Tower then Mammoth Hot Springs. The idea was to find some internet to see if any of the motels outside the west entrance had vacancies. Stay there then get up early before heading back into the park to see it in sunshine, as per the weather report. We were so glad we decided to drive back that way. We saw more bears! This time they were closer too. We saw one on a hill and then as we drove a bit further there were dozens of cars pulled over everywhere. We slotted into a space and I asked the people next to us what was everyone looking at? The old guy beckoned me to his camera which had a huge lens on it and then I saw it. A mummy bear and her baby cub. It was so incredibly cute! They were walking towards us too. We walked further forward to see them before they disappeared then went back to the car and pulled forward again. As we were looking out the window we saw people start to back away and head back to their cars. Within seconds the mummy and her cub bounded out the bush behind us and ran across the road. We were so close! It was a magical sight to see! Overall we were lucky enough to see a bears!As we continued heading north we decided that because the weather was clearing up, we would save £100 and camp again at Mammoth Hot Springs. We were also hungry. We drove into the campsite to see if there were any sites left and our site from last night was so we took that. After putting our $20 in the envelope we put our ticket on the post then headed just outside the entrance of the park to find food. It wasn’t like the west entrance. It felt like something out of a western with saloons and little wooden shops which looked incredibly cool. No McDonald’s though. But…we stumbled across a rodeo!!! Finally!!! Only we could stumble across something like that whilst looking for food! We pulled over on the side of the road and walked in. You’ve probably never seen two people so out of place. Other than a couple of Asian people, every person was in cowboy boots and a Stetson. There we were in our bright coats, still wet walking trousers and walking boots. We had absolutely no idea what was going on so we asked the Sheriff where you get tickets. He said that there wasn’t long left so don’t worry about it. Music to our ears that was. We jumped on the bleachers and began to watch the bull riding. These guys are craaaaazy!!! They didn’t all make it to the 8 seconds either and it definitely looked like one of the bulls got a guys behind. Videos on Instagram! A very cool thing to see. There was a pizza place we stopped at and got two pizzas and some mozzarella sticks to go, that way we had lunch for tomorrow too. Then we headed back to the campsite and as we did we passed this sign. we were exactly half way between the north pole and the equator. How random!We munched down the mozzarella sticks and pizza, which were delicoous, then headed to bed. It had been a long day. I still dont know how we walked 8 miles! I was looking forward to seeing Yellowstone in all it’s sunny glory in the morning…
The plan to get up and into the park early was quickly scuppered when rain began pelting our tent at 5am when the alarm went off. How disappointing! I decided not to awaken the beast, instead we slept for a little longer until the worst of the rain subsided. Then we were on our way.
We briefly stopped by Mammoth Hot Springs before heading back to the grand prismatic spring. The scenery was even more stunning with the blue sky. We saw herds of elk and bison. As we passed petrified tree, we pulled in due to the amount of cars and people. There were rangers there informing us they had shut the trail off because a bear was roaming along the road. We only saw one in the distance.It was sunny so everywhere was packed and we had to queue to park at grand prismatic spring. There was less steam today but we were still unable to capture its full glory.Excelsior geyser. The water was crystal clear blue. Thankfully there were no umbrellas in sight and the boardwalk was much quieter! You can begin to see the different colours of the pool: orange, yellow, green and different blues. Round the boardwalk also was turquoise pooland opal pool. This place was a real beauty. It would be perfect if there was no steam.To finish off our trip to Yellowstone with it being sunny was amazing. The scenery was breathtaking and we were incredibly lucky that we got to see about 12 bears including a cub that literally went right by us! We had been looking forward to Yellowstone, we got to camp for two nights and it most certainly didn’t disappoint…
Until next time….