“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page” – My wife sent this quote to me yesterday and i think that inspired me to finally document the “page” on Yellowstone 🙂
Yellowstone was the 3rd part of the ‘National Park road trip we set out on over the July 4th weekend in 2011. Even though this was the last leg of our journey, the 3 days we spent there were definitely the highlight of the trip. Its really hard to describe how amazing Yellowstone is through words…sometimes pictures make it easier, though i think most pictures wouldn’t do justice either! We had spent months planning for this trip and even after reading tons of reviews on what to do and not do (esp with a 9 moth old), we were still pleasantly surprised when we finally visited the park.
To be honest, we did not start the trip on a great note: We had booked a hotel at Gardiner, Montana which is at the northern end of Yellowstone. After spending almost the entire day at the Tetons (southern end of Yellowstone), we had started driving northwards around 8 PM, (when it was just about getting dark) hoping to cover the 100 miles or so through the park in about 2 hours. Our optimism quickly subsided when we realized that most of the roads inside the park are single lanes with speed limits between 40-50 mph. Also, as it was almost the end of the day there was a lot of cars moving out of the park, thus increasing traffic and slowing us down considerably. Daivik had been a good kiddo all through the day, but when he was still strapped to his car seat at 11:00 PM in the night, he finally ran out of patience! We stopped over at the lodge near Mammoth Hot Springs to grab a quick bite, only to realize that all the restaurants inside the park close by 10:00 PM. So hungry and tired we finally arrived at our hotel by about 11:30 PM. Though on a brighter note, we had finally arrived at Yellowstone !
A good night’s rest and the perfect weather was enough to rejuvenate us next morning! We were in the park by 9:30 am and driving through the Eastern loop across Tower Roosevelt and towards the Canyon village.
Our plan was to cover all the prominent sights and do 1-2 easy trails and/or hikes… and that’s pretty much what we did. We saw the Tower, Undine and Upper falls, did a hike to the Lower falls and Artiste Points. Drove alongside the Yellowstone river and saw spectacular glimpses of the mountains across the Yellowstone Lake.
Most of the day was spent hopping in and out of the car to enjoy the natural beauty surrounding us. We drove up to the West Thumb region and along the way we witnessed ‘Mudpots‘ and ‘Sulphur Cauldrons’ for the first time. The West Thumb area has numerous Hot Springs, Geysers and Sapphire pools and all of them were pretty special. Considering all the diversity that exists within this park (Hot springs, Geysers, Mountains, Water falls, River, Canyon, Lakes…this park has it all!), not to forget all the wildlife, I am sure anyone visiting this place would be completely awed by the experience!
What I will remember most about the next day is visiting the Old Faithful Geyser and my hike to catch an aerial view of the Grand Prismatic Spring. From all the reading I had done on to To-Do’s in Yellowstone, this proved to be one of the most useful ones. While travelling northwards in the Upper Geyser Basin, there is a trail known as the ‘Fairy Falls’ trail. About 0.5 miles into the trek, there is a short, uphill spur that you can take up to a hilltop that overlooks the entire Midway Geyser Basin and most importantly the Grand Prismatic Spring. Its a bird’s eye view and definitely worth the climb up the hill. There was no way we could have taken Daivik and his stroller up the hill…so Vaishakhi gave me detailed instructions on what to do with the camera and waited downhill with the little one. After about 50 shots of the Prismatic spring and views to cherish for a lifetime, down I came. We spend the remaining day mostly in the Midway and Lower Geyser Basin viewing some of the most amazing spectacles and trying to capture them on film.
It is said that half of the world’s geothermal features are in Yellowstone due to the ongoing volcanic activities and the park authorities have done a pretty amazing job of making most of them very very accessible (even to wheelchairs and strollers). Almost the entire trip we had Daivik’s stroller with us and did not face any hindrance in visiting a site.
With respect to wildlife, Yellowstone has almost 60 species of mammals. The most popular being the Grizzly bear, Black bear, Wolf, Bison, Elk, Moose, Pronghorn and Deer. During the 3 days we spent there, we spotted a Black bear and plenty of bisons, elks, mooses, pronghorns and deers. Towards the flag end of the trip there was a 10 minute shower and thanks to Vaishakhi’s heroic efforts with the camera from the back sear of our car, we were lucky enough to capture the double rainbow across the plains of Yellowstone. I think this was the perfect way to end this trip!
More photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaishakhi/sets/72157627298039428/