Welcome back for round 2 of our trip to Yellowstone. This is the day that Joe and I determined we would drive the whole Yellowstone Loop. Starting in the lower eastern corner, we first hit Dragon’s Mouth Spring: Named in 1912 by a park visitor for the water that lapped out the cave entrance resembling a dragon’s tongue.
I didn’t quite see it.
And here is Black Dragon’s Cauldron. Quite possibly the MOST sulphuric hot spring we visited.
Next up, a MUST SEE in my opinion, Hayden Valley! This is where the buffalo roam!
We got caught in a bison jam while 8 different bison, some calves, crossed the road!
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone:
Shot of the Lower Falls
Mammoth Hot Springs:
So right about here is where Joe decided we should hike up this gigantic staircase trail which goes to the top of Mammoth Hot Springs. And after hiking all the way up on a hot day, this is all we saw…
See that little puff of steam in between my head and the tree? That’s the roar in Roaring Mountain!
This geyser is the largest erupting geyser, if I remember correctly, but it’s also one of the most unpredictable. It erupts every 4 days to 50 years. We, uh, didn’t wait to see…
Norris Geyser Basin:
Black Sand Basin:
We’ve almost made it full circle around. This is in the lower west half of the park. Gorgeous hot springs and lots of thermal ground. Be sure to stay on the path!
The ground near the springs. It gets creepy and sinister if you stare at it too long.
And Now For Your Campfire Story:
After our driving and hiking around the park all day, we went for a nice dinner at the Grant Village Lakehouse, where I did eat the most amazing bison sausage with apple soaked sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard on crostinis. Yep, I’m a bad person. It was delicious!
After dinner, we dragged our camp chairs down to the lake’s edge with a couple cans of beer and stared out, admiring the rare moment we both could slow down and just enjoy the scenery. We had amazing experiences with all the ranger walks and programs we attended, so we decided to go to another one at our campsite’s amphitheater. There were signs pointing along a trail that would lead us there, so Joe said he wanted to walk. Ok, I said!
The walk was much longer than we thought, and not entirely marked clear throughout. We finally made it to the amphitheater for the ranger’s 9 o’clock program which was all about BEARS. Such as how many bears are in the park…over 100. And things like, if you encounter a bear, don’t run…why? OOOh, because it’s predator instincts will kick in and it’ll chase you down and eat you! So here’s some bear safety. Make lots of noise and hike in groups of 3 or more…we’re only a group of 2…*shifts eyes*
One hour later, the ranger completes his informational discussion about bears. The sun has completely set and I’m thumbing the tiny flashlight in my sweatshirt pocket, cursing Joe for ever making me walk here in the first place. His one consolation was that other campers would be hiking back to the campground too and we could go with them.
Except that, no, no they weren’t. They were at the campsite next door to the amphitheater. Everyone else drove! So, let’s take inventory shall we?
- Easily picked off group of two
- Faint yellow light from the small flashlight in my hand
- Complete isolation after dark in a park full of predators
The ranger said make noise. Ok, we can do that! Joe started singing ‘I Will Always Love You’ via Dolly Parton, and I sang ‘Stupid Boy’ ala Pink. As we walked along, I occasionally flipped my light behind me convinced I was going to see several tons of fur lumbering behind us.
And did I mention the creaky metal bridge we had to cross? It has one side that bounces up and down uncontrollably! So we make it across that, and we get to the most thickly forested area when Joe alerts me he really has to pee.
Jess: *Death stare!*
Joe: I just gotta pee. Hold on.
Jess: Helllll no! We. Are. Not. Stopping.
Joe: I’ll be really fast.
Jess: I’m not waiting for you. We need to keep moving. You pee your pants; I’ll keep your secret. We’re walking back to camp.
Miracle of miracles, we made it over the second bridge crossing and Joe saw campfire light and headed up to use the bathroom at A campsite. Even more miraculous, it was OUR campsite! Hallelujah!
You’d think once back safely with no bear sightings, the night would improve, but that’s not the way my story goes, puppets. The temperature dropped to 30°F that night! I had wisely bought sweatpants per Joe’s advise, and we slept in sweatshirts with our sleeping bag and 2 more blankets. But Joe kept rolling over, taking all the blankets with him and even if only my ankle was exposed to the cold night air, I woke up screaming!
By morning, and I mean sometime shortly after 5 am, there was an unpleasant mixture of woodpeckers, wet tent, deflated air mattress, freezing temperatures, and shivering bodies. We packed up and dove into the car, cranking the heater on the way to the showers.
Hello to you too, Yellowstone! Message received loud and clear: You are WILD.
That concludes day 2, the Yellowstone Loop. We loved our tour of the park’s hotspots, literally. And the bison jam was my favorite thing of all. We actually got caught in ANOTHER one before leaving the park. Two bison walking down the street, with an RV moving slowly behind them.
Tell me about your most memorable camping trip or vacation!