The Big Trip Out West
Though I haven’t even been home for more than a month, I’ve been pretty busy. Almost immediately after coming home, my family and Julia set out on a great adventure west. We wanted to see some of our nation’s most beautiful parks during the Centennial of the National Parks Service. Our goal was to visit the Badlands, the Corn Palace, Custer’s State Park, Mt. Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Craters of the Moon, Crater Lake, Redwoods State Park, Yosemite, King’s Canyon, Sequoias, Moab, Canyonlands, Arches, the world’s best cinnamon roll at Glen Haven, and Trail Ridge Road. But even the perfect plan can have its bumps and amazing surprises. Come along on the journey, as I’ll be posting each day (and roughly each park) throughout the next few months.
Let it Snow
We awoke in our little cabin beds to the noise of snow scattering across the roof. While it wasn’t sticking to the roads down where our cabin was, it was starting to cover the treetops and the ground higher up in the mountains. We took our breakfast at the hotel with peaches, strawberries, and cream oatmeal and some biscuits and gravy.
Arriving at Yellowstone
Our bags were packed, and we headed up into the mountains toward Yellowstone. There was snow everywhere.
The first stop on our trip was a visitors center to enjoy the falling snow, which looked so much like Dip-n-Dots ice cream. After playing in the snow, we drove to the Dragon’s Mouth.
Set back in a cave, the boiling water gushes up and creates a snorting noise. Next to the Dragon’s Mouth was the Mud Volcano, a boiling pit of mud that was once topped by a chimney. After a big explosion, it no longer has its top.
Our next intension was to walk down the staircase by the falls, but we became a little turned around.
Instead, we followed Uncle Tom’s Trail nearly halfway to Artist’s Point before turning around. Eventually, we made our way down the 350+ stairs to the lookout at Little Yellowstone Falls.
It was breathtaking. Even though we stood at a distance, you could still feel the moisture blowing through the air.
Taking in Some Geyser Features
Artist’s Paintpots was our next stop. These thermals pools are often filled with thermophilic bacteria of a variety of colors. At this time of the year, the bacteria struggle to grow and the yellow sulfur is not present, so many of the pools were plain.
Still, you could still see the beauty of the geyser field from the lookout tower and imagine what it might look like when the bacteria is present. I could have stayed and watched these pools gurgle all day long!
As we rounded our way towards our hotel, we stopped at Excelsior Spring and Grand Prismatic Spring. In the freezing cold air, the steam from these springs billowed off in giant clouds. The sunset reflected off their still waters. It was so cold here that we were not able to enjoy them for long before bundling back up in our car.
Taken By Surprise
One thing that Zach had been really looking forward to on our trip to Yellowstone was seeing some of the reintroduced wolves. They’re very reclusive, so it’s rare to encounter them.
While we drove down the road, I noted that there was a bald eagle sitting on a tree. We pulled over to take some photos when another tourist with binoculars came over to us. It turns out that he had not seen the bald eagle but had been watching a pack of six wolves as they climbed the hillside. The grey ones were difficult to see, but the pack also included a white and black wolf.
Our last stop at the night was an impromptu visit to Yellowstone Lodge and Old Faithful. A family was gathered there in the bitter cold and wind and told us that they had been waiting for over an hour for it to erupt. We stood for around ten minutes, jumping around on frozen toes, before she finally erupted.
I should note here that Old Faithful is much less faithful than she used to be. While she once blew every hour or so, she now can lie in wait from anywhere from an hour to 12 hours. While we were there, she actually took a long pause overnight before erupting again the following morning.
Calling It a Day
That night, we stayed at the beautiful Yellowstone Snow Lodge. Inside, there is a massive fireplace with five chairs – just perfect for us. We sat for a while and warmed our toes before going to dinner in the hotel restaurant. Zach and Dad had bison burgers, Julia and Mom had a bolognese, and I had a spinach salad with cranberries and blue cheese. All of us shared a delicious bowl of corn chowder, but I can say that the food wasn’t worth the price it cost. My salad was good, but the others were disappointed. That night, we actually sat next to an amazing couple from Birmingham, UK, and we ended up chatting for a while with them.
After dinner, Mom, Dad, Julia, and I all hunkered down by the fire. Eventually, we got to chatting with a guy named Mike from California. One of the best parts of traveling is getting to talk to all of these people from around the country. So many different and shared experiences between people who have never met.
Go have some tea to warm on up, and be kind to one another,