Sunday morning we packed up and headed 94 miles NE to West Yellowstone, MT, our home for the next few days. The campground was another “kōa” and we were stacked in like sardines. However, the boys were overjoyed with the basketball goal, putt putt course, and abundance of kids.
With it being our buddy's birthday we decided to cook dinner and celebrate in the campground around the fire pit. We feasted on pork tenderloin, roasted brussels sprouts, baked potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and, key lime pie. Listen, campground food can be AMAZING!!!
While relaxing around the fire, our next door neighbor pulled up, hopped out of his car, and greeted us with “Hey der nayburs! We’re about to light a fir and drink sum beers!” These were the Nelsons from Minnesota & they were spending a few days touring Yellowstone as well.
Monday morning, we rolled out of bed, grabbed breakfast, packed lunches, and headed out to explore Yellowstone. Not knowing quite what to expect, we heeded the warnings of others to “pack plenty of patience” in order to deal with the traffic jams & tourists. While sitting in traffic for 30 minutes waiting to get through the gate, we started making a list of license plates from different states, and by the time we left the park we had found 38 out of 50 states (including Hawaii & Alaska!). We had been advised to take the North Loop in order to avoid so many tourists and view more wildlife. However, Old Faithful is in the South Loop, and the hubs said you just can’t go to Yellowstone & not see Old Faithful.... So, South Loop it was.
My pre-conceived notion of Yellowstone was one that looked very similar to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone and the hubs was expecting something similar to Arbuckle Wilderness. So, we were quite surprised with what we found. A word to the wise, it takes 3 full days to cover Yellowstone, and you should actually allow about a week to fully explore the majesty. But, in true family fashion, we blow in like a whirlwind, see & do as much as we possibly can in a short time period, and blow on down the road!
As we began our trek through the park, we were surprised to be driving on wide open paved roads winding through the mountains, along streams, and next to wildlife and geysers. The geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles were one of the most impressive and unexpected aspects of the park. Witnessing the boiling hot water, steam, and mud bubble up out of the ground is rather unsettling as you’re standing next to signs warning of “unstable ground”.
As our road led us on down to Old Faithful, we spotted a beaver swimming downstream, moose grazing, canadian geese swimming, and lazy bison not bothered by the tourist traffic. We arrived at Old Faithful, fought the crowd, circled the parking lots, and finally found a spot while a kind man from Chicago informed us we had 15 minutes until the geyser would go off. And, he should know since he had been there all day, watching the geyser go off every 94 minutes in an attempt to capture a perfectly timed family photo with 12 family members in matching t-shirts in front of Old Faithful. I can't make this stuff up. After waiting front & center amidst the crowd, the geyser went off as promised @ 1:47, and we were definitely underwhelmed... We decided that was it and left the crowd to go to the visitor center. Inside the center, we saw the estimated time of eruption to be 1:52 and it was currently 1:53. We looked out the window just in time to see steam billowing out of the ground and grabbed the kids to make a dash back outside to the viewing area where we then witnessed an awe inspiring marvel of nature. While the height of the geyser was impressive, we were both surprised that it didn’t make much of a noise. I had expected a boom somewhat similar to that of the Belagio Fountains.... And by the way Yellowstone, you could take a note out of the Belagio's book and set the eruptions up to perfectly orchestrated music... I mean, it's just an idea.
Leaving Old Faithful, we headed East to Yellowstone Lake where we watched bald eagles circle over head with snow-capped mountains in the distance and felt the chilly breeze blowing across the lake. Leaving Yellowstone Lake and heading north, we had our eyes peeled for grizzlies as we spotted tree after tree marked up by bear claws and streams filled with spawning salmon. Regardless of how much it looked like a great big hungry grizzly should jump out of the forest and snag a salmon from a stream, we never spotted one, much to our dismay. Well, at least to the boys' and hub's dismay. I'm totally fine not actually having an encounter with a massive beast that would snatch me up and devour me like I was last night's leftover lasagna.
As we wound our way alongside the Yellow River, we eventually made our way up to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Upper and Lower falls. The falls at the top of the canyon cascaded down and flowed through the deeply cut canyon filled with a multitude of colors from different rock and minerals. I have yet to witness Niagara Falls in person, but one passerby commented that she thought it was even more beautiful than Niagara. While it was gorgeous, I'll have to make that decision for myself one day.
Leaving the canyon, we drove past herds of antelope, bison, and elk in the middle of vibrant green meadows. We made our way to exit the park and all agreed that it was one of the most breathtaking sites we’ve visited. As a tropical climate, beach loving Mama, I can assure you that Yellowstone has just as many exceptional views as my beautiful Hawaii does.
The next morning, we packed up camp and headed 544 miles Southeast across Wyoming to Spearfish, SD and the Black Hills to see what more adventure awaited us!
Who am I?
Hi! I'm. Brandi, founder of The Power Project. There are a few things I'm passionate about in life, and one of those happens to be my LOVE of travel! We enjoy traveling the world with our kids as well as the continental United States in our motorhome. I hope you enjoy some of our most memorable adventures!