Yearning for Yellowstone

It feels like years ago that our biggest concern was the massive number of mosquitoes in Yellowstone (first time we’ve had a problem there), and in other ways, it feels like yesterday. Regardless, we are missing those days when our biggest worry was mosquitoes. Don’t get me wrong – I am loving all the time at home with my favorite people, but the anxiety is real here. After two big losses already in 2020 and the coronavirus changing everything about our lives, we are missing 2019 something fierce.

Yellowstone is one of those places that pulls us back year after year. The excitement of wildlife and volcanic geysers is just too much for us to resist. With its location attached to the Grand Tetons, and on the way to Glacier, it makes for a welcome and easy stop. Our first stop was Grant Village, which we like because of its central location, with easy access to the Old Faithful area. The kids took no time adjusting to our new home and love a little down time in the campsite being creative, making up games. The giant suspension bridge is a favorite attraction from the campground to the village, and almost always has nobody on it, which is always so surprising to us given the busy-ness of Yellowstone National Park.

We were fortunate to witness a killer sunset by the calm and cold Yellowstone Lake. The kids loved playing in the sand and skipping rocks, and despite it being one of the most popular national parks, once again, we were along on the beach.

Next to Grant Village is the small, but impressive West Thumb geyser basin, which is unique because of the cool underwater geysers.

One of the most popular areas of the park is understandably the Old Faithful area. This year, we were fortunate to not only see wildlife, Old Faithful (which erupts almost every hour), and Morning Glory, but also were able to watch the enormous Grand Geyser erupt.

On the way to Canyon Village, we stopped at another favorite geyser, Dragon’s Mouth Spring and Sulphur Caldron. As you sit there, it is so easy to imagine the dragon inside, warning passersbys to just keep moving along… but of course, it is mesmerizing to stand there and let your imagination run wild. The heat gun always comes out at these spots, drawing crowds for all to see how hot each geyser is.

The bison never fail to appear near the Sulphur Caldron, and while humans are not allowed anywhere near the springs, those bison walk right through disdainfully. Hayden Valley is filled with bison, and there has rarely been a year we haven’t been in a bison jam on the way from Grant to Canyon.

Canyon Village is our favorite reservable campground in the park, with it’s central location, deep campsites, and great hikes near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. All that fresh air wipes the kids out so much, so we can’t resist taking those deep sleep pictures.

Canyon is the perfect launching ground for a loop trip through Madison, Norris, Mammoth, and finally up to Lamar Valley. The loop always looks so small on the map, but it is a full day of travel and sightseeing.

The elk like to gather in town at Mammoth, and this year’s trip was getting to see all the babies.

Driving around the loop, we were able to see several bears grazing in the tall grass. The longer you stay in Yellowstone, the more accustomed you get to knowing whether it’s a “bear jam” or another type of animal.

One of our favorite “jams” of this trip was a coyote that had no shame about stopping traffic to chew the roadkill off of the highway while we waited. Another highlight of Yellowstone is taking a detour through Lamar Valley, stopping at Slough Creek to see all the telescope spectators watching for bears, and stopping at Pebble Creek pullout to cook dinner and watch for wildlife. It almost always rains there, and bear seem to make an appearance about half of the time.

After a long day of driving, it’s always nice to take a day off to check out the best visitor center in the park, gift shop, and catch up on laundry. There is a 4 mile loop hike at Canyon that we love, where you get amazing views of the canyon, a private geyser viewing, and stretches along a lake and pond.

Ethan entered high school this year, and he took the opportunity to dive in to the Algebra curriculum since he decided to skip high school Algebra (after having it in junior high) and go straight into Geometry. All the kids have bridge books to keep busy in the car, but this was something that Ethan actually looked forward to during travel time. It never fails, when we leave, we are so excited to stop for some great food, and this year, Grandma treated us to our first family meal at Fuddruckers. Their smiles say it all! (travel dates 6/29-7/3/19)

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