Yellowstone National Park Trip Recap

Posted July 2, 2015 in Yellowstone, travel, adventure, hiking, outdoors, healthy eating, healthy living, healthy travel, fitness

"Wilderness is a necessity ... They will see what I meant in time. There must be places for human beings to satisfy their souls. Food and drink is not all. There is the spiritual. In some it is only a germ, of course, but the germ will grow." - John Muir

I really had no idea what to expect in Yellowstone. To be honest, I didn't know a lot about the park…Old Faithful, bears, wilderness. But I was completely blown away by the beauty of Yellowstone. I was also amazed at how little I knew about a park that is located 14 hours away from where I live. And I quickly realized that everyone else was in on the secret because I heard people speaking about a dozen languages throughout the park.

There was a quote featured near Old Faithful that mentions the spiritual energy at the park. When you're in Yellowstone, you really can feel that energy. Especially after you learn about the geological history of the park, and learn what's going on just miles below the earth's surface. It truly is a magical place.

Just a little context…the BF and I met his sister, Betsy, her husband, Matt, and their kids, Payton and Cooper, on this trip.

Read my Yellowstone Half-Marathon Recap and my Grand Teton National Park Recap also.

Here's a recap of our time at Yellowstone...

Monday, June 15

We left the Grand Tetons and began the three hour drive to our campsite in Yellowstone. It was a beautiful drive, and we stopped multiple times to take photos. We stopped for lunch at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. We ate sandwiches, chips and fruit in the parking lot before exploring our first geyser.

I was immediately in awe of the geysers. They are all so unique and mysterious.

Cooper, the BF's six-year old nephew, asked about how geysers worked and learned about Yellowstone's volcanic features and started to get freaked out about an eruption. He asked a lot of questions about whether we would all die. Oops.

After exploring the geyser, we continued on and made it to our campsite at Canyon Campground.

As we began to get dinner going, it started raining. Not just a light rain, a consistent heavy rain. Betsy, the boys and I got into her car.

Betsy opened a bottle of wine for us as the boys watched movies on their Kindles. The rain turned to hail and eventually snow. The guys stayed out in the storm to make beef stew over the fire. I would have been fine eating snacks from the cooler, but they were set on getting that dinner prepared.

When it was finally finished, we all ate dinner in the cars, then got ready for bed. It rained until about 2 a.m. I quickly realized that my sleeping bag wasn't warm enough and I wasn't wearing enough clothes. I also realized that I forgot a pillow. I think I slept for maybe two hours.

Tuesday, June 16

A new day! The BF threw some breakfast burritos on the grill and we had a nice hot breakfast. And Matt made coffee in their French press.

We left camp and spotted this guy on the side of the road. (I took this from my car. I didn't get this close on foot.)

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was very close to our campsite, so we decided to spend the day exploring the canyon. We started with a short hike to the Upper Falls. It was absolutely magnificent.

This is when I started to think about the people who initially discovered Yellowstone, and about what they were thinking when they saw these views.

We then went on a short hike for some other views of the canyon and the falls. The hike was beautiful. A lot of people drive from site to site at Yellowstone, but I think it's worth it to hike. You get to see so much more (and stand on the edge of a cliff).

We also went to the Lower Falls and on our way to our next destination we saw some wildlife!

At Yellowstone, when there is wildlife near a road, people pull over and get out of their cars to take photos. It's fine when the animals are pretty far away. On our way to our campground, there was a ton of people pulled over and I didn't want to get out because it seemed too chaotic. But Betsy jumped out of the car and ended up seeing a grizzly bear!

Artist Point was probably the most amazing thing I have ever seen. This is the most photographed view in Yellowstone.

It was seriously so beautiful.

We ate lunch in the parking lot at Artist Point. Just a bunch of random stuff…trail mix, granola, bananas, chips, turkey and beef jerky. There was a forecast of rain for the afternoon, so we went back to our campsite. Betsy, the boys and I went to Yellowstone: Supervolcano, a museum in Canyon Village near our campsite. It was a really interesting museum. We also checked out the gift shops in the village.

For dinner, we had veggie burgers, hot dogs and veggie packs. It started to rain again during dinner, but not nearly as bad as the first night.

We made s'mores!

I didn't sleep well again that night. I was still pretty cold even though I wore more clothes. The BF gave me his pillow and he used an inflatable pillow from an extra sleeping bag we brought. We also used the extra sleeping bag as a blanket.

Wednesday, June 17

Geyser day! We joked that we were going to see 1,000 geysers that day, and it actually felt like we did. We started the day with breakfast burritos, and left our campsite as early as we could to head to Old Faithful. We wanted to get there early and beat the crowds.

Old Faithful was just going off when we got there. They estimated that it would erupt again about 45 minutes later. So the boys took a junior ranger class to get their junior ranger badges. The day before, they got activity books to complete to become junior rangers. The class was their last requirement. After they turned in their activity books, they got sworn in as junior rangers. It was the cutest thing ever.

Then it was time for Old Faithful to erupt. It was eerily quiet despite there being hundreds of people sitting around the geyser.

Obligatory Old Faithful selfie.

Betsy jokingly asked if they shut it off at night. She got a lot of stares from people ; )

After Old Faithful was done, we took a trail to see all the geysers around Old Faithful. It was a really cool walk, and we saw tons and tons of geysers. I have about 100 geyser photos, but I'll spare you from having to look at all of them. But seriously, geysers are so cool!

Just look how happy I look looking at geysers.

After geyser gazing for quite some time, we checked out the gift shops (I actually super love gift shops even though I rarely buy anything) and then we ate lunch outside of the Old Faithful lodge. We had sandwiches, chips, blueberries and hummus and crackers.

Then we had ice cream!

And continued our geyser tour. Biscuit Basin is where we saw the first person put their hand in geyser water. Hello, so dumb. I also felt like it was really disrespectful to the park.

We also stopped at the Midway Geyser Basin. I was super excited about this one because this is where the Grand Prismatic Spring is. We started on a trail and kept walking and walking and walking. It was super hot out, and the boys were getting pretty tired. It seemed like the spring was so far away. So we ended up turning around, and driving to the spring. We later realized that if we had kept walking, we would have seen a view over the spring and we would have been able to see all the vibrant colors that you see in photographs of the Grand Prismatic Spring. I guess I have to go back someday!

This is another place we saw someone put their hand in the geyser water. We told them not to, and they had no idea why. I started to think that some people just go to Yellowstone and see the sites and don't learn anything about the history of the place.

The BF took this "casual" geyser photo. We really should have done more photo shoots on this trip. But we were so amazed by the sites, we didn't think of it.

After a full day of geyser viewing, we went back to our campsite and had burgers, brats, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and salmon for dinner.

Betsy also made grilled cinnamon apples over the fire.

They were delicious!

One note about food…You can't keep food out ever in Yellowstone. We brought our food in a cooler and a large sealed plastic container, but you can't even keep those out. Bears and other animals can figure out how to get into them. We took the BF's pickup on the trip, and we had to put the cooler, food box and grill in the cab of his truck every single time we went somewhere. (They were in the bed of the truck while we drove places). It was kind of a pain. Betsy and Matt brought their mini SUV and that was way more convenient because they didn't have to move things around. Just FYI if you ever travel somewhere that has bears.

This was the first night we hung out by the fire and didn't just go straight to bed after dark. It was the first night that it was warm enough to be outside at night.

Thursday, June 18

Breakfast was eggs, bacon, energy balls, bananas and orange juice. This was the last day for Betsy, Matt and the boys. We all broke camp and loaded up our cars.

Then we drove to Mammoth Hot Springs. It was such an incredibly beautiful drive. That's one thing I haven't mentioned. Every drive in Yellowstone is more beautiful than the last.

After checking out the springs, we went to Fort Yellowstone, which was pretty interesting. We checked out a museum, then walked around the historic fort. There were some elk just chillin.

We said goodbye to Betsy, Matt and the boys. I was sad to see them go. We had such a great time with them. It was fun to experience Yellowstone for the first time with the boys.

The BF and I didn't have any major plans for the day. We decided to just drive toward our new campsite and stop any place that looked interesting. We had lunch at the Roosevelt-Tower Campground parking lot. One thing we realized later is that there are beautiful picnic areas all over Yellowstone. We ate a lot of lunches in parking lots, but we should have driven a bit and found more scenic lunch spots.

We drove up a mountain (I can't remember the name) and ended up at a site where we could see the caldera. It was pretty amazing.

We kept driving and found a trailhead. I was super nervous about hiking here. There weren't many people, and it was the first time we hiked in a place that wasn't going to a touristy site. When we first started walking, we could hear all the trees creaking as the wind blew. It was so creepy.

Then we saw a wolf and we didn't die. So I felt better. We also saw more people on the trail, which made me feel more comfortable. It was a five mile hike and it felt so awesome to be in the wilderness exploring.

After our hike, we started to head toward our campground, but we hit some super slow traffic. We finally got to a bunch of pulled over cars and asked someone who was walking what was going on. There was a grizzly bear. So we pulled over and walked toward the 50+ people standing on the side of the road. We could see anything. We asked multiple people where to look and...nothing. Finally, the BF saw the bear lift his head. He was laying on the ground on the side of a hill. Even using my telephoto lens, he was still really far away. But we saw a bear!!!

After the bear excitement, we stopped at the Volcano Mud Pots and Geysers. It was a really cool spot that I hadn't read anything about. Above is Dragon's Mouth Spring. It makes crazy creepy noises because the water is rumbling inside a cave.

We finally made it to our campground and set up camp at our site. We stayed at Bridge Bay Campground, which is right by Yellowstone Lake. We had a nice little view of the lake through the trees.

We cooked up all the rest of the meat that needed to be cooked (turkey burgers, brats, veggie burgers) and had chips and guac with our proteins.

The BF and I hung out by the fire for hours. It was so relaxing and wonderful. The evening weather was finally getting warmer. As the sun was setting, a bison slowly meandered through the campground close to our site!

Friday, June 19

We got up early and broke camp. It was time to begin the next part of our adventure…South Dakota! I ate a cold breakfast burrito for breakfast (gross) and we started our drive across northern Wyoming. But first, I had to take one quick photo of Yellowstone Lake.

I was a bit sad leaving Yellowstone. It was such a magical and beautiful place. Although camping was rough the first few nights, I got a lot more comfortable. It became such a fun adventure!

I truly believe everyone should go to Yellowstone. It's pretty amazing that it exists in the United States. It's the most beautiful, mysterious and wonderful place that I have ever been.

Have you been to Yellowstone? What was your favorite part of your trip?

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