Wyoming

Yellowstone: Fishing Bridge and Cody, WY

This is my last post about Yellowstone.  It is such a huge park and there are so many different areas to visit!  If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone, I would suggest spending at least 1 or 2 weeks and don’t stay at the same place the whole time.  Move around to the different areas of the park as you visit each section.  Otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time driving.

The last section we visited was at the east entrance to the park, the Fishing Bridge section.  First we went to see the Mud Volcano and Sulphur Caldron.  This was similar to the geyser basins we saw earlier in our trip in that it was interesting to see smoke and boiling substances coming from the ground.  But it was not nearly as pretty as the geysers and blue pools we saw in the Old Faithful section.  These were definitely muddier pots and very stinky from the sulphur.

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This one definitely smelled like dragon’s breath!  Eww!

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Dragon’s Mouth Spring

Look at Jesse’s face!  He thought the smell was so gross! 🙂

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Mud Volcano

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Sulphur Caldron

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Pretty cool looking boiling mud pot (don’t remember what this one is called)

Then we went to the LeHardy Rapids for a picnic lunch.  It was pretty cold that day and this area seemed especially cold so we ate fast and moved on.

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LeHardy Rapids

Then we hiked to Natural Bridge.  This started out as a hike down a road that didn’t seem like a trail so we weren’t sure we were going the right way.  And we were the only people on the trail which was odd for Yellowstone.  But eventually we started seeing signs to the Natural Bridge so we knew we were going the right way.

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Natural Bridge

Finally we hiked the Storm Point trail along Yellowstone Lake.  This was a beautiful hike!  Part of the hike was through forests and another section was through a meadow where you would typically see bison grazing.  However, when we walked through the meadow there were no bison in sight at that time.

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After hiking through the woods for a little while we got to the beautiful Yellowstone Lake.

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The boys loved running up and down this hill and making “sand” angels.  I think they miss the beach!  It’s been several months since we have been near the ocean.  This is no ocean, but it sure is a huge lake!

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We stayed at Buffalo Bill State Park in Cody, Wyoming while we visited the east side of Yellowstone.  This was one of my favorite campsites we’ve ever had, the view from our site was incredible!

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That spot on the trail is our Fat Cat.

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Fat Cat loved this campsite!  She had lots of room to roam around and hide in the long grass and hunt rabbits.

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She also liked climbing trees.  Can you see her in this tree?  She is somewhat camouflaged by the branches.

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The boys liked playing in the water but it was kind of cold.

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Cody is a really cute and charming western town.  We went to the rodeo while we were there.  I have been wanting to catch a rodeo somewhere along our travels, but it seemed we were always missing them.  I’m glad we made it to this one as it’s considered the “Rodeo Capital of the World”.

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That wraps up my several posts about Yellowstone.  If you have been reading all of them, thank you!  I write these blogs mainly for my family and friends to keep up with what we’re doing, and sort of as a travel journal that we can go back and read later to remember the places we have visited.  If it inspires anyone else out there to get out and travel and see these amazing places, then that is an added bonus.

Next up Glacier National Park!

Categories: National Parks, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Yellowstone: Hiking Mt. Washburn

On our last day in Gardiner, we hiked Mt. Washburn.  I heard great things about this “must-do” hike from a couple of different bloggers including this one: The Best Hike in Yellowstone.  I’m glad we took his advice.  It was a beautiful hike!  It is a little over 3 miles to the summit making it a little over 6 miles round trip.  The uphill climb was hard work, but the views were so amazing it was worth it!

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A ranger lives at the top during the summer in the fire watchtower.  Below the ranger’s living quarters is a type of small visitor center that you can go in and look at maps and information about what you are seeing off in the distance.  You can even see Grand Teton from up there on a clear day!

We got a very early start that morning to make sure we could find parking at the trailhead.  The beginning of the hike is through meadows and you’ll see lots of wildflowers.

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As you get closer to the top it becomes more rocky and barren.  In the picture below you can see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

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This is the view from the watchtower.  So beautiful!

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I actually thought hiking back down was even more stunning, probably because on the way up I forgot to occasionally look behind me at where we had been.  When I remember to do that, I realize sometimes the view behind us is even better!  Since this was an up and down hike, hiking back down I saw all the views I missed on the way up.

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This certainly was one of the “best hikes in Yellowstone”!  I have one more post from our time in Yellowstone about our visit to the Fishing Bridge section on the east side.  Stay tuned!

Categories: Montana, National Parks, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Yellowstone: Mammoth Hot Springs

If you are following along and missed my first 2 posts about Yellowstone, you can find them here: Yellowstone: Geysers and Hot Springs and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

After our stay in West Yellowstone, we moved up to the little town of Gardiner, Montana which is at the north entrance to Yellowstone.  Yellowstone is a huge park and it seemed to work out best for us to move to different sections of the park rather than driving for several hours each day.

My parents were still with us for the first couple of days in Gardiner.  We stayed at Rocky Mountain RV Park.  They had a cute little mini golf course that the kids enjoyed playing with Gramma and Grampa.

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Gardiner was a really cute town just like West Yellowstone.  We enjoyed walking around town, checking out souvenir shops and eating great pizza.

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The Roosevelt Arch was cool.

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Also the beautiful Yellowstone River runs through town.

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Gardiner is very close to the Mammoth Hot Springs section of Yellowstone.  We enjoyed visiting there with Mom and Dad.  We walked through the lower and upper terraces.  These terraces are so interesting and unique.  It’s hard to see in the picture, but there is hot water running down this terrace.  It’s amazing to see this and wonder how these steps/terraces were formed.  It was so pretty!

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This section looked like snow!  But it wasn’t snow; it actually had very hot water running down it.

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My cute parents enjoying their last day at Yellowstone.  We had so much fun with them visiting with us!  I sure wish they would sell their house and join us on the road. 🙂

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I can’t even explain how amazing this place is.  You just have to see it for yourself.  I mean here we are in the middle of all these mountains, and smack in the middle of it all is this small section of hot springs creating the most unusual landscape.

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No, that is not snow.  It sure looks like it, but it’s actually very hot!

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During the week after Mom and Dad left we visited the Boiling River. That was really fun!  You can sit in this river where the water is cold and hot at the same time.  Boiling water from the hot springs flows down into the cold Yellowstone River.  It felt really weird.  Sometimes I would feel a rush of cold river water and the next steaming hot spring water.  You had to be careful not to get too close to the hot spring water because it really was boiling.

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Another evening we drove down to Lamar Valley to try to see some wildlife.  We were surprised that so far we haven’t seen very much wildlife around Yellowstone besides lots of elk.  We heard Lamar Valley would be the place to see some bison and that was the truth!  They were everywhere, even in the road!  I was so excited to be first in line at this bison traffic stop.  What a show!

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The boys earned their Junior Ranger badges at the Mammoth Hot Springs Visitor Center.  This is their 20th national park badge!

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On our last day in the Gardiner area we hiked up Mt. Washburn, but I will save that for another post as this one has gotten too long.

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Categories: Montana, National Parks, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

This is the second post of several about Yellowstone National Park.  If you missed the first one you can find it here: Yellowstone: Geysers and Hot Springs.

While visiting the Old Faithful and Canyon Village areas of Yellowstone we stayed at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone, Montana.  This was a really nice RV park.  It was expensive, but so is everything else anywhere near Yellowstone.  We enjoyed relaxing outside with Mom and Dad after hiking in the park all day.

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The boys loved the playground.

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And we enjoyed this shelter one evening to play a game of Mexican Train dominoes.

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The town of West Yellowstone is super cute.  Everything is western themed.

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Jake even got into the western theme and bought himself a cowboy hat!

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We visited the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center where we saw several grizzlies actively playing.  The wolves were all asleep, and usually when we go to zoos the bears are usually sleeping too.  But at this place the bears were so active which made it lots of fun to watch them.

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Anyway let’s talk about the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.  We parked at the Artist Point parking lot.  Artist Point is a beautiful viewpoint looking down the canyon toward Lower Falls.

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Artist Point

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After enjoying the view for a little while, we headed down the Rim Trail to get closer and better views of the falls.  This hike had some beautiful view points.

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We went down Uncle Tom’s Trail which is a staircase with 328 steps.  Going down is easy, coming back up — not so much!  But it’s worth it because going down gives you even closer views of the canyon and falls.

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After climbing back up the stairs we continued on down the Rim Trail a little further to see the Upper Falls.

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This was a really nice hike and not too crowded.  Most of the crowd only comes to see the viewpoint from the Artist Point parking lot.  Hiking the trail gives you many more beautiful views without the crowds.

 

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Yellowstone: Geysers and Hot Springs

Wow, just wow!!  That’s what I have to say about Yellowstone National Park.  It is the most unusual and fascinating place I have ever seen!  It’s also a huge park and there are so many different areas and features to see.  There are mountains and lakes and rivers, geysers and hot springs, a canyon, lots of wildlife, etc.  I will write about Yellowstone in a few different posts because there is way too much to put in just one.

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This post will be about the various geysers and hot springs we saw in the Old Faithful area.  We started at Grand Prismatic Spring which was one thing I wanted to see the most, but it ended up being a little disappointing because it was such a cold morning (35 degrees in August!), and the heat from the springs gave off so much steam that you couldn’t really see the colorful springs.  I’ve seen pictures of Grand Prismatic before, but it didn’t look quite the same when we were there because of all the steam.  Nevertheless, it was still a spectacular sight to see.

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Grand Prismatic Spring

This is Chris walking down one of the boardwalks and there was so much steam everywhere.  It’s like the entire ground surface is just boiling under us and steam was everywhere!

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From there we went to Old Faithful.  You can’t come to Yellowstone and not see Old Faithful because it’s the most popular thing to see.  But I was really surprised at how many people only come and see that and don’t venture out and see all the other amazing things to see around Yellowstone.  And quite frankly I didn’t think Old Faithful was nearly as interesting as all of the other things we saw at Yellowstone.  Don’t get me wrong, Old Faithful is pretty cool because it is so predictable (hence the name).  It’s amazing to me how accurately they can predict when it will erupt.  We were able to see it erupt 3 times that day from different angles all because the predictions are so accurate.

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Front row seats at Old Faithful

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Old Faithful from the back side

These hot spring pools were a lot more interesting to me.  Look how deep into the earth it goes!  I wanted to just dive in there and see how far down it goes, but of course I wouldn’t do that because I don’t want to die right now.

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Morning Glory

I loved all these turquoise blue pools.  And you could see that they went down so deep into the earth.  It looked so mysterious, like I wonder how far down it goes and what is down there?  The kids’ junior ranger book has a chart to show how hot the various colored water is, and I was surprised to learn that blue is the hottest.  Blue looks like it should be cold.

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Sapphire Pool

Artemisia Pool was one of my favorites.  We went on a long hike and came upon this geyser that happened to be erupting at the time.  That was good timing since it doesn’t erupt very often.  On average it erupts anywhere from every 11 hours to every 3 days!  I guess we were pretty blessed to come upon that geyser at just the right time.

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Artemisia Pool erupting

We walked by later and it was no longer erupting.  Still just as beautiful though!

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Artemisia Pool dormant

As we hiked around this section of the park we came across many steaming geysers.  It was so incredible to see all this heat and steam coming out of the ground!  Yellowstone does a good job of providing many safe hiking trails and boardwalks so you can see these amazing features without getting burned.  But some people don’t take the warnings seriously and the worst can happen if you walk off the boardwalks.  We’ve heard stories of the tragedies… please follow the rules.

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Giant Geyser

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Yellowstone is very crowded in the summer.  If you want to enjoy the scenery and hike some nice trails, plan to get to the parking lots early.  As I mentioned before, I’m surprised at how many people just come to the popular spots like Old Faithful, and don’t even go any further to explore all the amazing features at this park.  But that is great for those of us that like to hike the trails!  We love to get away from the crowds, and once we started walking off towards the other geysers and hot springs in the area the crowds dispersed.

We went to the Norris Geyser Basin mid-afternoon one day and it was pretty crowded, but not as bad as the Old Faithful area.  The Norris area is mostly dormant geysers that don’t seem to erupt very often, but it was still a pretty walk along the boardwalk to view this area.

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Norris Geyser Basin

I follow several other blogs of fulltime RV’ing families, one of them is Crazy Family Adventure.  They went to Yellowstone last summer and wrote several blog posts about their visit which I saved for future reference.  I found their posts about Yellowstone to be so useful in planning our time there.  One thing I learned from their blog that we did was the hike to Lone Star Geyser.  This is definitely one of the “roads less traveled” in Yellowstone as we did not see very many people there.  It is aptly named “Lone Star” as it is a geyser all by itself out in the middle of nowhere.  It is quite spectacular though.  It only goes off every 3 hours or so and erupts for about 30 minutes.  And it is powerful!  We timed it pretty well in getting there just about an hour before the main event.  I say “main event” because there were a few false alarms where it erupted for a few minutes and then stopped.  The other people there said that when it goes, it really goes for a long time.  So we waited and it was worth the wait.

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Lone Star Geyser before eruption

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Long Star Geyser erupting

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The kids were able to play in the river while we waited for Lone Star.

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I should mention the hike to this geyser was over 2 miles and it was a boring hike.  There was not much to see on the hike out there, and then of course you have to hike the same boring 2+ miles back when it’s over.  I would recommend riding bikes instead.

This blog post has gotten long enough.  I will post some more later about other areas we visited.  Stay tuned!

Categories: Montana, National Parks, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grand Teton National Park

We spent a week at Grand Teton National Park and it is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  It seems I say that about every place we go, but seriously my pictures do NOT do it justice.  If possible, please come and see this place in person.  It’s amazing!

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Jenny Lake

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String Lake

The first hike we did was along String Lake to Leigh Lake.  The water is so clear and blue!

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Another day we did an awesome 6 mile hike halfway around Jenny Lake and then up to Inspiration Point.  It’s 6 miles out and back, but if you don’t want to hike the whole 6 miles, you can take a shuttle boat across the lake that drops you off where you can hike just to Inspiration Point which is 2 miles round trip.  If you’re up for it though, I would highly recommend the entire 6 miles because the Jenny Lake portion of the hike was the best part and the least crowded.  We saw a moose and a bear on this hike.  Neither one were very close to us so I didn’t get any good pictures, but it was really cool to see those animals in the wild.

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Jenny Lake

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Inspiration Point

Chris was so excited about seeing a bear that he decided to go for an early morning hike the next day with Jake to see if they could find any more bears.  And they did!  They saw a huge grizzly bear that stood up on his hind legs and then started walking towards them.  They were a little too scared to take any pictures and just slowly backed away.  We had just gone to a bear safety ranger program the previous day and purchased some bear spray, but thankfully they didn’t need to use it.  Jake was pretty scared by that bear and didn’t want to go on any more foolish bear hunting expeditions, but I’m not so sure that Chris learned that lesson yet.  I told him I didn’t want him to spend the rest of our trip dead, so hopefully he’ll stay away from the bears. 🙂

This trip was made extra special because my parents were able to join us later in the week. After picking them up from the airport we went to visit the cute little town of Jackson Hole.  Those are real antlers in that arch!

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This looks like it would be a fun place to come back for some winter time snow skiing!

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Then we headed back into the park and went to see the Chapel of the Transfiguration which was so beautiful!

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Chapel of the Transfiguration Picture Window

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We camped at the Colter Bay RV Park inside the Grand Tetons which was really nice and woodsy.  Colter Bay Village has lots of facilities available like a grocery store, gas station, restaurants, a marina and a visitor center.  We did some hiking around there and also went to the Visitor Center so the kids could get their Junior Ranger badges.

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We also went to the Jackson Lake Lodge which was a fun place to visit.  They have a playground and pool that the kids enjoyed.  The Jackson Lake dam was also a very nice stop.

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On our last day there we hiked the 4 mile loop around String Lake.

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If you plan to visit there in the busy summer months and want to hike, I would recommend getting to the trailhead parking lots early.  They fill up fast!

We had such a great time showing Gramma and Grampa around the Grand Tetons!  From there we all went up to West Yellowstone, Montana to begin exploring Yellowstone National Park. Stay tuned for posts about that.

Categories: National Parks, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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