Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Our Adventure: Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Two days of driving around Yellowstone is at the same time amazing and far short of what Yellowstone deserves. It was wonderful to see the park and I'm so glad we did! I'm not sure what else we could have done given the time and budget and small children in our family. We felt that everything that we saw was just a hint of what else was there to experience! Like you couldn't really get to know the park (or even a region of the park) without spending a week or two, or an entire summer there!

I wish I'd taken even one picture of West Yellowstone, Montana, just outside the west gate where we spent Saturday night. It was a super-cute tourist town! We ate Sunday breakfast at the Running Bear--which I highly recommend--and headed back into Yellowstone.

Without waiting a turn for a photo-op, this is the best I could get! LOL!

If you couldn't tell by my addiction to the atlas on our trip, I love maps! Here's one of Yellowstone so you can follow along with our journey around the park. This second day started at West Yellowstone, then we drove clockwise around the outside of the large figure eight. (Yesterday, we started at the east entrance, went past Yellowstone Lake and around the bottom of the eight, then exited to the west.)

Our first stop was at Gibbon Falls where we took a nice little stroll on the path beside the road, saw a pretty waterfall and had some pictures taken.

And then it was time for some encounters with bison.

First was this guy. If you look at the pictures from left to right, you can get a good idea of what happened.
  1. slow traffic
  2. notice bison on the road
  3. slowly and carefully pass said bison
  4. ask bison where he's going
  5. "no comment" 

Then there was more slow traffic. People have stopped and parked willy nilly off the side of the road. And proceeded to approach this huge herd of bison. Despite the many and varied warning posted all over the park! People, there were small children out there! Within a few dozen feet of a herd of bison.

Sometimes the most amazing wildlife in a National Park are of the human variety.

We continued on our drive, past Swan Lake, peaceful meadows and rolling hills. 

And some precarious drop-offs beside splashing waterfalls.

We stopped for lunch at Mammoth Hot Springs. There were several buildings--a lodge, a restaurant, a grocery, a first aide station, a post office and a historic cabin to name a few.

There were exactly three darling little boys we kept spotting as well.

Notice the ice cream?! Yum!

There was also a resident herd of juvenile elk. :) 

We continued east along the top of the figure eight. It seemed more wild in that section--maybe it was the lack of buildings and tourist attractions.

We (as in our car, remember) climbed a long, steep hill--Dunraven Pass, measuring 8859 ft. In the picture below, you can see a tiny dot on the highest peak. That's Observation Peak at 9397 ft!

Then we were back down by Yellowstone River.

When traffic slowed to a crawl, we were hopeful we would see another wild animal. I was crossing my fingers for a moose and my husband was hoping for a bear. 

Can you see it? Or them, really. We were debating if they were coyotes or wolves, and a ranger confirmed they were the former.

After that point we were repeating a section of the loop that we had been on the day before, so I put the camera away until we exited the South Exit of Yellowstone. There's a brief section of the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway before entering the Tetons.

What? No line for a family photo? Better for me!

Ok, so this is just my opinion, but this drive through the Grand Tetons was probably the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I was worried it was too late in the day to really appreciate the scenery, but I think the setting sun made everything more beautiful. Take a look!

Seriously. I wanted to stay forever. And guess what! We saw two black bear! A momma bear and her adorable cub were out stopping traffic looking for an evening snack.

I know, my bear pictures are awful, but I needed proof!

I'll leave you with something prettier.

Que the angels singing! You know that typical survey question, Beach or Mountains? I always choose mountains. What about you?

Next: More Grand Tetons! And cute little kids swimming in the lake! (When I can catch up, that is!)

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