Yellowstone started with a touch of drama. Originally JT and E were supposed to go. But then E couldn't, but B could. But then B dropped out (rather rudely really last minute - like, less than a month before hand, which is less than the cancellation period for the Yellowstone hotels). But then KW joined in, which is awesome, as KW is super athletic, perky, bright, and an all around amazing person, so I think it worked out for the best. (KP was also considering going super last minute, but couldn't make it.)
Anyway, the plan was that we'd drive over, spend three days there, then drive back. It's all rather condensed, especially as its a 12 hour drive from Seattle! Still, most amazing park In The World vs. a long drive? Yeah. I'll take it. ^_^
Me looking oh so lovely on the drive over. We had about $100 in snacks that we slowly depleted which formed my cushion, along with harvested pillows and blankets from my bed.
Up there on the list of things that were ~*hilarious*~ on the way over (esp. with, y'know, a 12 hour drive) were all the small towns. This one boasted of a business district that was seriously WTF since the city couldn't have had more than 500 people. What business is it that you speak of, small town in Idaho? Do you have TWO shops there? Alas, we did not pursue, so may never know.
Montana, from my incredibly bored perspective as a passanger in a car. It's pretty, but OMG is it a LONG drive!
Anyway, late in the evening we diverted from 90 to go to Norris Hot Springs and spent our evening gossipping in a gigantic hot tub (all natural spring water!) while drinking wine, beer, and cider, nomming on pizza and a cherry crumble, and listening to live music. I was a bit disappoined in that we bought the cheap cheese pizza vs. the delicious organic pizza, but eh...it was still pretty amazing. Good food, good friends, good times. I rather wish we had something akin to that here, but then, if it existed in Seattle, it would be a small fortune *and* standing room only...so maybe not. This may be something worth traveling to Montana for.
Moving on, we woke up at a reasonable hour the next morning in Bozeman and made the (2 hour longer) trip to Yellowstone. We arrived at the north entrance and promptly made it to Mammoth hot springs, which is pretty amazing.
Of course, first we had to make it past the elk herd who'd taken residence in front of our hotel. The male was particularly hilarious in that he kept standing around, trying to look cool while the ladies ignored him. Occasionally he'd run up to one and the lady would race away. KW described it as "a dude who's mistakenly wandered into a lesbian bar". Too true.
Elk ladies clearly have no time for this nonsense.
The rangers had areas cordoned off as to where we couldn't go (as you need to keep 25 yards away from any wild life, 100 yards from bears and wolves). But while it was sort of enforcable in chunks, it wasn't overall as the elk were freaking everywhere. With that said, the advice was pretty good. In the nearby town of Gardiner, apparently male elk were chasing visitors around because it's mating season and male elk are pretty dumb. (When I was there earlier, male elk wandered down the street but weren't especially aggressive. These were frat boy elk.)
Our hotel, from marginally above. It's...um, very historic. In like, even in our cabin/hotel room, we had to go outside for showers + the toilet. It was okay, but weird. The food was amazing, though, just so you know.
Me and JT looking goofy. Especially me. I live for goofy.
Anyway, we eventually made it past the elk and wandered over to Mammoth Hot Springs. It's really cool, in the way an extraordinary feat of geology and microbiology is cool. You know like, a natural wonder. The pictures speak for themselves. :p
Once the hot springs rushed in, the trees died, leaving this amazing and yet somewhat desolate landscape.
Our shadows, overlooking the hot springs. I'm the dumpy one, due to me carrying too much. JT, while short, got a good position for looking heroic. ^_^
We were all super amused by how things were named. To the left, there is liberty cap a...um...rather phallic looking structure. Next to it is Hymen Terrace. Then the trail to Beaver Ponds. You cannot make this !@!# up. Park rangers clearly need some kind of outlet.
Me at Mammoth Hot Springs.
A close up of the hot springs.
This one little plant was growing in the middle of what had to be a boiling, super acidic pool. After the apocalypse, we'll all be descended from it. Just saying.
What can I say? The place is pretty magnificent! I didn't love it quite as much as JT (who marked this as her favorite place). But I still thought it was pretty freaking awesome.
Anyway, after wandering the boardwalks we proceeded east to Lamar Valley, with the idea that along the way we'd stop at two waterfalls (Undine and Wraith) that were marked on our map, as well as at the Petrified Tree since, what the heck, it was also on our way, and just to get everything in, Tower Falls! So many waterfalls! What could go wrong?
Undine Falls - it's pretty amazing!
We stopped by Undine Falls and looked at it. It was a very nice waterfall, to be sure, but we saw people ON THE OTHER SIDE. As we are taunted by these facts, WE COULD NOT LET THIS BE, so we found a path and walked to the other side. It was an easy path. It did not take long. The view was tremendous. This was a good decision.
Another picture of our GOOD DECISION.
We continued along our way. What might have once been a novel sight of bison became annoying. Bison are rather scenic, but also like to stand in front of traffic.
This is a comparatively well behaved bison.
But eventually we made it to Wraith Falls.
Undine falls is...me.
Why is this pathetic thing even marked on the map?
We were disappointed in Wraith, all the more so in that it was a half mile each way out to it. Yeah, I know, not far. But we're in YELLOWSTONE. We demand more. Also, we all live in Washington, so have an abundance of falls.
Whatever. Petrified Tree had to be better, right?
Petrified Tree is not better.
We considered doing a bit of hiking about then. We'd been trapped in a car. Go fresh are and fall colors!
Just as we looked down at our path, we saw some unsettling things...
This didn't really unsettle us, but I found it amusing all the same, all the more so with the "two bears!" "three bears!" notes!
A tree bison
No, it was a bison, just sitting under a tree...watching. I mean, they may be herbivores, but they're a ton in weight herbivores. I don't want to tangle with one, just saying..
Then something more ominous appeared...
You should fear....
We spotted a bison, crouching in the grass by our path, just watching. We backed up. We watched him, eager to see what he'd do.
We got our first test with hikers coming back the way we were intending to go. They made a wide treck around the guard bison wisely.
Then some other people just didn't care.
One idiot wandered out to guard bison and stood near him, snapping pictures, at which many hikers scurried past. I'm not sure if Guard Bison ever gored the photographer. There are many mysteries in this world....
Anyway, eventually we continued along to Tower Falls, which is quite lovely.
A very pretty falls.
JT and KW in front of a look out that is around Tower Falls, but clearly not overlooking it since, yeah, whatever, I'm not a photographer.
With our waterfalls explored, we set off to visit Lamar Valley, known for its wildlife.
Bison having a heart to heart, clearly!
A lot of bison. They get boring after a while.
A baby moose! This is pretty unusual, since moose are super rare in Yellowstone and yay! Baby!!!!
A bison who clearly believes asphalt roads are bison trails!
I like bison and all, but the road blocks that they caused due to pictures got kind of annoying, especially considering that they're not all that rare....
Bison close up!
Another traffic tangler were the big horn sheep who have no fear of cars.
The males do look prety cool though. Although also kind of derpy.
So this one is cool!
In between cool and derpy.
We finished our evening by going to the Boiling River. It was...interest. I remember it being more pleasant in the past, although I may be wrong. Regardless, this time it was freezing getting in, then either boiling or frigid depending on where you were facing. (Generally one side of you would be uncomfortably warm, the other miserably cold.) You could shift and drag the water around, but it was A LOT OF WORK. So mostly it was suffering mildly. But, you know, it was a cool geological phenomena, there were some interesting people there, etc. It was described as a wonderful experience I would not repeat.
Ah, one hot springs to the next! This is my Yellowstone trip!