In 1988, when I was 16 years old, my family went to Yellowstone. I'm sure that was the year because we were there the summer of the famous fires that burned almost 1/3 of the park. But other than remembering a lot of smoke, and worries that our trip would be cut short, I really don't remember anything about Yellowstone. Time knows that he went in high school as well, but his memories are equally vague. When we first started talking about a trip to Yellowstone, I wondered if we should go for that exact reason...our kids likely won't remember the trip. But I'm so glad we didn't let that deter us because we had an amazing time. Several years from now the kids might not recall all the details, but Tim and I definitely will and we will have plenty of stories to tell to remind them of the fun.
We left Thursday mid morning and drove to West Yellowstone where we planned to stay for three days. The kids were so excited that Brycen was able to come with us, and we all started off on a complete high. The trip wasn't bad, a few traffic delays, and several stops for the potty, but overall it was smooth and easy. We arrived at the hotel, got checked in, then wandered out to check out the shops and have dinner. It took a little bit to get everyone (Luke and Ruby I'm talking about you) settled down, but we finally were able to sleep and get ready for our first big day at the park.
As we looked at our options and started to plan how to spend our time, it was clear that we could spend weeks in the park and never see it all. We decided to pick a few areas that we really wanted to see, and not worry about rushing to see the rest. It was a perfect strategy and I think we all enjoyed the slow pace and the ability to slow down for a minute. Yellowstone is beautiful from the minute you enter and we mostly put away books, electronics, etc. and just watched out the windows.
We quickly learned that if traffic slowed, there was likely an animal
One of seven buffalo that we saw during our trip.
We saw the coolest tree roots everywhere
The first stop was at the Fountain Paint Pots trail. This area of the Lower Geyser Basin has all four of the hydrothermal features that are in the park - hot springs, mudpots, geysers and fumaroles within a relatively small area, so it was a perfect place to begin.
The colors in the hot springs was stunning
The boiling mud was Tim's favorite
We were all excited to see our first geyser.
It wasn't huge, but it was erupting the entire time we were there.
We drove about 20 miles into Yellowstone before we made our first stop, but from there, our next several visits were pretty close together which kept everyone interested and excited. Our next stop was the Midway Geyser Basin which is a collection of mammoth sized springs. This was probably my favorite stop on the trip. The colors and views were stunning, and I loved the contrast between the hot pools, and the pines and mountains in the background.
Grand Prismatic Springs is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone and the third largest in the world. Geologists may be impressed by its size, but it was the colors and textures that I loved. We looked at the spring from all angles, and each and every one was stunning.
The last of the features was the Excelsior Geyser - it was once the world's largest geyser, but hasn't erupted since the 1800's and now is just a thermal spring. There are ledges and cliffs and the water is so crystal blue - we were all nearly convinced that this was really a Caribbean destination and we were wishing we could just dive in for a swim. Might be just a little too warm for that.
The spring overflows into the river below.
Our final stop for the day - and where we would spend nearly the full afternoon was at the Upper Geyser Basin. We knew that we wanted to see Old Faithful, the star attraction, but it turns out there are a lot of amazing sites to see in the area. This area actually has the largest concentration of geysers in the world and we were able to see several.
When we first arrived, Old Faithful was anticipated to go off in about 30 minutes so we wandered into the visitor's center to learn a few facts, then headed out to the viewing platforms for our first shot at Old Faithful. The kids were so excited and loved it as soon as the geyser started to erupt, It turns out there is a reason it is so famous - it's just really cool to see. We hung around and watched to the end, then wet to find lunch and let the kids look in the gift shop. As we headed back to the Old Faithful area, we discovered that the predicted eruption had not happened yet, so we stuck around and watched for a second time. This one seemed to be a little late, but even better than our first show. The stream of water went up much higher and lasted even longer than the first time we saw.
Different angle, this was round three
Playgrounds in the woods are the best
Cory told us that when he was in Yellowstone last year, he had loved exploring all of the geysers and features around the Old Faithful area. Thanks to his suggestion, we took the time to explore the Geyser Hill area and were again amazed at the diversity and beauty of nature.
The forest ranger told us to stop for this geyser and it was definitely worth waiting for. About every seven minutes the pools would quickly fill with water, shoot up for about 30 seconds, then stop and drain like a toilet. It was so cool that we waited around to watch a second time.
We finished our time in the park with ice cream and rocking chairs on the porch of the lodge. It was one of my favorite moments, reminiscing about the day and just enjoying our surroundings.
On the way home we spied a buffalo right on the side of the road,
The kids loved watching him eat.
When we got home we were exhausted but had been promising the kids all day that we could go swimming. The pool was small and indoors, but we had a great time playing together. It was a long day, but filled with so many amazing sights and sounds and memories.