The day before our Yellowstone reservation was to begin we took one more day in the Tetons enjoying the area. We took a walk along a lake that turned into a four mile hike right up against the beautiful mountains.
It was our first real hike of our trip and was a lot of fun but when we got back to the RV we were hot and dusty from head to toe so we found a nice spot on String Lake and went for a swim. The glacial water was cold but clean and refreshing. That night we relaxed at our campsite and started watching the first season of Breaking Bad. (That show goes from zero to crazy in the first half of episode one. It’s great.)
In the morning we broke camp and headed north through the South entrance to Yellowstone National Park and made our way to Fishing Bridge RV Park, right in the center of the park. It’s the only RV camp in Yellowstone that offers full hookups and it was VERY busy with campers setting up and breaking down. We booked our site long in advance which is how we got six days at that great location. The spots around us turned over at least three times while we were there. We spent the first night setting up our spot and doing much needed laundry. We wanted to take some all-day bus tours through the park but thought the weekend would be crazy so we booked a southern loop tour for Monday and a northern loop tour for Tuesday. This turned out to be the right move as both of our tours were not crowded. Monday we got up and met the bus nearby at 9:15 am. This was the “Ring of Fire” tour and it encompassed the entire southern loop of the parks central roadway.
The southern loop roughly follows the rim of the caldera which is the mouth of the gigantic ancient volcano that is Yellowstone. This rim is where the ground is weakest and lets the geothermal craziness reach the surface. Along the loop we saw all manner of thermal steam vents, geysers, hot springs and mud pots but the highlight of the tour was not Old Faithful, it was the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This is the gorge where the Yellowstone river drops from two huge waterfalls into the stunningly beautiful canyon carved from the multicolored stone stained by the mineral rich hot springs. The photos can not do it justice, it is awe inspiring. There are many viewpoints available including overlooks right at the brink of both falls. The snow pack in the mountains is still melting so the river is high and was thundering over the falls.
On Tuesday, we took the “Over the Northern Range” tour which is a circuit of the north loop. This was great because there were just two other people along with Kate and I. Our guide (his name is Rich, ask for his tour bus) has been running tours in Yellowstone for twenty of his thirty years with the park and knew everything there was to know. We saw many more thermal features like geysers and hot spring basins but the highlight was Mammoth Hot Springs in the far north of the park. This is an enormous collection of hot springs that has created a mountain of travertine terraces that collect and then spill the mineral-rich boiling water from terrace to terrace. As the water cools it nurtures different varieties of bacteria that have different colors. this gives the whole area an amazing palate of colors.
For our last three days we were on our own and drove the RV around the park seeing some new spots and looking more closely at some of the places we’d seen on the tours. One place we both really wanted to see was the Grand Prismatic Spring.
This is Yellowstone’s largest hot spring at 370 feet across. The water is boiling hot in the center which produces a lifeless deep blue color but at the edges it cools enough to support yellow and orange thermophiles. The combined effect is a full spectrum of colors from the edge to the center. There is a boardwalk that takes people right along the edge but Kate and I chose to climb a trail that leads to an amazing overlook. That was the best view.
On our second to last day we woke up at 4:30 am to drive out to Hayden Vally at sunrise to try to get a look at the animals when they’re most active. It was chilly and we were tired but it was worth it because we got to see a mother grizzly bear and her two cubs foraging for food. This was almost certainly the bear that had killed a hiker a few weeks earlier. We kept our distance and got some great photos (the best one Kate posted earlier).
Through our last days in the park we hiked off the beaten track along Yellowstone Lake looking at driftwood and animals we encountered. it was great to put ourselves out where it was just us and the park. We both really enjoyed it and plan to do a lot more hiking in the future.
After the week was finished we pulled up anchor and headed north. As you leave the northern entrance of the park you pass though Roosevelt Arch. From there we went on to Bozeman, MT to visit a friend and she put us up for the night. We had a great night of sushi dinner, wine, beer and great conversation. (Thanks so much Katie and Jesse!)
Our ten days in the greater Yellowstone area was amazing and we highly encourage everyone to spend some time there. It is very busy with tourists because it is so incredible but it is well worth it. You won’t forget it.