Monday, August 15, 2016

Yellowstone 2016: Part One

John and I went to Yellowstone in 2008, and over the years, we’ve always talked about the day that we could take our kids back there to experience the beautiful scenery and even better/ WILD proximity to wild animals. We loved eating dinner at Roosevelt Lodge last time, so we wanted to stay in one of the Roosevelt cabins on our next trip. After researching, I learned that there are only EIGHT cabins there with bathrooms inside the cabin, so we had to schedule our trip and reserve our room a year in advance- before Cressey even existed. Since Cressey was only three months old when our trip finally rolled around, we decided to leave her home with her very sweet grandparents and enjoy some one-on-one time with Helen Grace.

We saw so many animals in 2008 that we had really talked it up to Helen Grace. We must have done too good of a job of telling her to be careful, listen to us, not get too close, etc. because while she loved watching for ‘park-arazzi,’ she was extremely hesitant to get out of the car and see the animals up close. She saw most of Yellowstone from the back of our rental car, and after the newness of the first day wore off, we had to holler at her to get off her iPad to take a look (insert our rolling our eyes and maybe raising our voices here).

We flew in and out of Bozeman, Montana this time (Jackson, Wyoming in 2008), and we stayed from July 7-12. We stayed at the Old Faithful Inn for two nights, a frontier cabin at Roosevelt for two nights (the ones with the in-demand bathrooms), and then at the Element hotel (a Starwood property) in Bozeman for our last night.

We left Memphis at the crack of dawn on the 7th, arrived in Bozeman to find we had won the rental car lottery (brand spanking new Yukon), and hit the road for the two-ish hour drive. We entered the park in West Yellowstone (great little town with all kinds of necessities- we had to buy binoculars that we forgot) at the west entrance, another first for us, and then we headed straight for Old Faithful Inn.

Our room was in the ‘new wing,’ which I swear was built in the 1960s. It was clean and spacious with a nice bathroom, so it was perfect for us. We explored a little, grabbed dinner at the Old Faithful dining room, and finished up just in time to see Old Faithful go off at sunset. Absolutely beautiful! Afterward, we fell into bed and slept like rocks.

The next morning, July 8th, HG asked that we start with a hike to check out some geysers that we could see from our hotel. That sounded like a cool idea until we got about 20 minutes into it, and then she decided she’d rather watch them from a bench over by Old Faithful. So she and I went back to explore closer to the hotel, while John went on down the trail. As we walked back, John managed to get a cell signal (small miracle in itself) and called to say that the Beehive Geyser was about to go off. That was amazing luck that we happened to be right there as that happened (only goes off twice a day and one time falls in the middle of the night), and the light hit the water just right to give us a HUGE rainbow!

After the geyser hike/sit and a quick lunch in the Old Faithful cafeteria, we got in the car for a drive. We tried to go north toward Norris, but traffic came to a screeching halt as there was a bad wreck. We turned around and headed the opposite direction toward the Lake area. We saw some elk and bison along the way, enjoyed the lake-side drive, stopped to see the mud volcano and then for ice cream at Canyon, and had fun exploring the southern rim of the Yellowstone Falls (up close to the Upper Falls and then the landscape view of the lower falls from Artist Point).

By late afternoon, we decided we should head back to Old Faithful to find some dinner. When we turned south at Norris, the traffic stopped again. We soon found out that the wreck that had closed the road around lunchtime had actually required several medevac helicopter rescues, and the road was still closed. We were stuck within three miles of Old Faithful, and it would have taken several hours to turn around and go back around the loop. So we parked at the Grand Prismatic Spring and toured it while we waited. It turned out to be just the perfect amount of time because as we finished, we noticed cars were moving and the road was open!

We grabbed dinner at Hamilton’s, a great little diner also known as the Old Faithful Basin Store, and had the best hamburger in the park. And a milkshake too, of course! Afterward, we headed back to pack up and head north to Tower/ Roosevelt the next morning.

Ready for an adventure!
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Enjoying a little Sky Club time during our Minneapolis layover
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Arriving in Bozeman, it didn’t take two minutes before we spotted our first bison! HG asked me to take her pic with it.
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The curvy mountain roads while being warmed in the sunshine proved to be too much for baby girl after waking up at 4:30 a.m.
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We made it!!!!!
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We soon spotted our first animal- a bison waaaaaaayyy out there.
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She was kinda excited about our room. I thought she might fuss about not having any tv, but she didn’t even mention it. Of course, she had her iPad and Nintendo DS to keep her happy.
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We just missed Old Faithful but had fun exploring the grounds.
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Old Faithful Inn
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You can find this cute little bear soap at all the hotels on property. I had to slip one in my bag…too cute to use though!
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In front of our ‘new wing’ at Old Faithful
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I love this lobby.
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Dinner in the Old Faithful dining room
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And then we walked outside just in time to see Old Faithful erupt at sunset. Breathtaking!
The next morning, we hiked over to see the geysers in the basin next door to Old Faithful. HG loved the geysers. At one point, she squealed, “This is so fun!”
That’s HG and me down by the fence (and the smelly, bubbling spring behind us).
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Morning Glory
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Watching Old Faithful from inside the cafeteria
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Beehive Geyser
Keppler Cascades
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Hayden Valley
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Mud Volcano
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As we left the Mud Volcano parking lot, we noticed a small traffic jam that we soon realized was caused by a bison crossing the street- and coming straight toward us! I was so surprised that I fumbled with the cameras in my lap, but I finally got my video rolling by the time he got to my side of the car- and then he stopped to scratch an itch! Hilarious!

Brink of Upper Falls
Artist Point
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While we waited for the road to open at the Grand Prismatic Spring, HG followed some boys’ lead and threw some rocks into the stream.
This water running down the side of the spring (and the color it had changed the rock) was so pretty.
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Grand Prismatic Spring
It was SO WINDY that we all felt like we’d blow right off the boardwalk. There was quite a collection of hats in the spring!
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As we walked to Hamilton’s, we noticed a huge bison that was laying in the shade of the bushes right outside the door. HG was brave this time.
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After dinner, we walked outside to see two bison strolling along the road, and then they stopped to roll in the dust. We loved seeing it- we’d never seen anything like it.

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