Our crew was in the best of spirits as we continued adventuring with the Beintums (Yellowstone travel dates 7/9-7/13, 2016), a family that makes our journeys that much richer for all every day we build memories together. On our way out of the Tetons, our Wi-Fi sneak peak of the weather alerted us that we would have one warm, sunny day before the bottom fell out and snow might be coming. When it’s a beautiful summer day, that is always hard to believe, but after spending many summers in the mountains, we knew better and planned accordingly.
One of the growing pains of moving up to a bigger camper means that we need the rare 40 foot sites in the park campgrounds. We had no problem getting a big site at Grant back in January when we made all our reservations, but were only able to get one of the few at Canyon after stalking the site daily for cancellations. Luckily, it fell within our date range, but it meant we had to pass right by Grant and head to Canyon first, then go south again to hit Grant before heading north again to Glacier. Thankfully, I was the only one irritated about that, and our friends, the Beintums, happily accommodated and changed their reservations accordingly. Yellowstone reservations open the summer before, and you only have to pay the first night’s stay as a deposit, allowing for flexibility and free cancellations 30 days prior, but it means planning further in advance for those with bigger campers like us.
As we entered Yellowstone, we were reminded of the automatic busy-ness of the park, with long lines right at the entrance.
Our first stop is my favorite exhibit in the park, Dragon’s Mouth Spring. It was amazing to stop and be able to take potty breaks in the camper instead of waiting in the long lines for the stinky outhouses before heading up to the springs! Dragon’s Mouth doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to hear the powerful roar of the dragon inside the cave of rocks. I could stand there for hours letting my imagination take over!
After the Marciseks told us about a learning kit at Old Faithful that allows kids to measure the temperature of the geysers, Chuck decided to put our “tire checker” to good use. He became the most popular guy on the boardwalks as everyone walked by discussing what a great idea it was and asking him what all the temps were. As if he needed further encouragement, he thought he was just the coolest.
This whole geyser basin is filled with bubbling mud pots and the fresh scent of sulfur, bringing back memories of weeks spent in one of our favorite parks. It was exciting to witness the excitement of the Beintum girls first visit to our nation’s first national park.
We were able to see our first bison of the year, basking in the sun amongst the bubbling geysers.
After setting up in the Canyon Campground and eating a quick lunch, we raced off to savor the last day in the 70s on one of our favorite loop trails in the park, through the prairie,
checking out bear clawed trees,
along Clear Lake,
a geyser basin all to ourselves,
and finally, a walk along the magnificent rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Along the way back, we came across a phone belonging to a Japanese man, and were amazed that his phone worked better than ours in our own country!
We had a blast writing a note for him and contacting his buddies on social media to explain where we would be returning his phone (especially the guys).
Before returning the phone to the visitor center, we ventured down the infamous stairs to get a better view of the falls.
Back at the campground, we grilled up some chicken and got the fire ready for some delicious pie irons.
Thankfully, we set up under the awning, as the weather came early and we endured several hail storms as we cooked dinner and made s’mores.
Thankfully, we rescued “sparkle butterfly pumpkin” wolf before he got too wet.
The next day, we planned to drive up to our favorite spot in the park, Lamar Valley after spending the morning in the warm visitor center.
While it is usually rich in wildlife, we were beginning to think the animals abandoned the park. After a stop at our all-time favorite campground, Slough Creek,
and examining bison poop as instructed by our favorite travel book, “Who Pooped in the Park”
we looked for wolves along the road in.
We did run into this coyote,
and a bison in our usual bear lookout picnic area.
We failed on our bear lookout,
but the kids enjoyed checking out the ground squirrels as we made dinner.
On the way back, we were disappointed that we ran into a few lone bison, but none of the herds that usually block the road for miles.
I think that perhaps the animals were as disturbed as we were about the cold weather! We spent the evening playing games with the kids watching a movie in the camper, and I can honestly say this was the night we were most thankful for its warm and size as we squeezed all 12 of us in.
We awoke to blowing snow the next morning and I have to admit our spirits were low.
Our usually irritatingly optimistic husbands abandoned their “LIG” attitudes, but not for long.
We checked out of Canyon, into Grant, bundled up in coats, hats, and gloves, hiked out to our favorite suspension bridge along the lake to warm up,
and headed off to explore the West Thumb, just outside of the Grant area. Brrrr!!!
After warming up in the Grant Visitor Center, we built a big fire back at camp for the evening. It’s a good thing we had been collecting wood as campers abandoned their campsites in the cold!
We all looked forward to eating brunch in the Old Faithful Inn that next morning. Civilization never felt so good!
This is by far, my favorite log construction in the parks, and we always enjoy exploring the different levels.
The Old Faithful basin is huge, and after watching Old Faithful erupt as predicted,
we explored the many geysers, thankful for blue skies and warmer weather. Chuck was back at it again measuring temperatures and enjoying the crowds.
The crew collapsed on some benches to wait out one of the geysers, but the long time span urged us to move on eventually.
A lone deer wandered the river and geyser basin with us.
Braden always seems to find the same bench to take a rest.
Rich gave me my a good laugh by bellowing “She’s gonna blow!” for all to hear 😉
Perhaps one of the most beautiful geysers is Morning Glory.
From there, the guys returned to the car and drove over to the next basin with Gavin, and Ellie, who insisted on going back to see Castle Geyser, while the rest of us moved through the Upper Geyser Basin to Black Sand and Biscuit Basins.
While Grand Prismatic was not as stunning as usual with the cold temps creating lots of steam,
we were happy to explore further with temperatures 25 degrees warmer than the day before!
All the steam made it feel like we had reached the end of the earth!
Even though temps in the 60s did not feel warm, we ventured off to our favorite swimming spot in the park, where the warm spring waters meet the cold in the Firehole River.
While the water is warm in comparison to the river normally, the air temps were cold and more rain had everyone racing back to their cars to change! We were really sad to say goodbye to the Beintums,
as they like to travel through the night and headed off to Seattle while we headed back to camp to do laundry before heading off to Glacier. After heading to bed early, we were able to get out early and enjoyed a misty drive out of the park.
While our time in Yellowstone was cold and we sure felt it, we knew we would only be in the park for 4 days, and we are thankful we made the best of it. Sometimes, the most challenging days make the funniest stories, and bring everyone closer together. We look back on our time there with fond memories as always!