Welp, time to face the big birthday. I needed to do something to acknowledge and celebrate, so off to a National Park!
I had a pretty normal workday, and then around 3pm we packed up and got outta town. Yellowstone has been absolutely packed this year, and I almost dreaded going. But we've found that mid to late September is a great time to be in a park, and I'm guessing most people are back at school. Campsites were hard to find, but we landed on a spot with a camper cabin that's right at the south end of Yellowstone, and also right outside Grand Teton. If Yellowstone was too crowded, we could pop down into the Tetons.
For our road trip dinners I usually go for Burger King (zesty sauce and onion rings!), but since it was my birthday I wanted to aim for something a tad better. And weirdly I craved pasta. We Yelp'd some spots in Pocatello and rolled up to this joint.
Not quiiite what I expected, but it was fine. And better than Burger King. Anthony went inside to pick it up and it was deserted. The staff talked his ear off and was so pleased that someone came in. Yay for helping a small business.
We turned east after Rexburg and drove in eerie skies.
I didn't really research routes too much, just followed Google, but when it said we had 50 miles to go but 2 hours more of driving, I got worried. Sure enough, pavement ended and we were on a dirt road. Luckily it was a good dirt road and did not take us 2 more hours.
Around 9:30pm we got checked in and settled into our little cabin for the night. Got to see it in full glory the next morning, since it doesn't have electricity.
I'm all about good food for camping. Dehydrated meals are okay once in a while, but give me real food.
Our little home. With the same Ikea table we have at our house.
For Thursday adventures - we did a lot of driving. We thought we'd aim for the popular spots today, in hopes that it'd be less crowded than the weekend. We headed to Grand Prismatic Spring first, and didn't even bother with Old Faithful. Our cabin is 2 miles from the Yellowstone South entrance, and there was basically no line to get into the park.
Pulled up to Grand Prismatic and the parking lot was already packed. We pulled out and found a spot a little ways down the road. Much easier to park there and walk over.
We had talked about doing the overlook trail to see the full effect of colors at this spring, but it was pretty cold and it was covered with steam, so we probably would not have seen too much anyway.
This geyser started to gurgle and steam a lot, so we sat and watched for a bit.
We made quick pit stop at Gibbon Falls. It was pretty crowded, but nice to see.
Then we pulled over at the Artist Paintpots. This warning sign is hysterical. But this story is not hysterical. Stay on the boardwalks.
I would have watched this mud pop and bubble all day.
Keeping on towards the north. Maybe this is Bunsen Peak? I dunno, but the landscape changed and it got really pretty and mountain-y.
I'd heard Mammoth is cool, so we stopped there and what we thought was a little walk turned into a big wonderland of awesome things to explore. I'm really glad we got all the way up there.
On the way home we stopped at these boulders and Anthony climbed around for awhile.
And we pulled over at some lake to check it out. Anthony is always looking for a spot to swim, but he decided to pass at this spot.
Last top, we pulled over at Norris Geyser Basin and also found a magical place to explore. It ended up being one of my favorite spots and I wish we'd gone there earlier and had more time to see it all.
This is the most irregular geyser and goes off anywhere from 4 days to 50 years. It's been pretty active since 2018 though. We just missed an explosion the day before.
On Friday I wanted to head up into the Hayden Valley area for wildlife stalking. Apparently the best area for that is Lamar Valley, but a major road is closed in the park this year, and it would require a huge detour. So Hayden it is.
We first stopped at West Thumb Geyser Basin, right on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. Definitely worth a stop.
We stopped in Lake Village to grab ice for our cooler, since the store by our cabin was out this morning. Can't have that food spoil.
We planned to drive into Hayden Valley and do a hike around there, but we found massive crowds along the road and tons of cars. At a point along the river we saw a dead elk and lots of people camped out on the side of the road with huge cameras. We found out later a bear killed an elk in the river, and on our drive back through we saw the bear sitting next to its prey. We didn't stop to watch, but found a YouTube video that caught the whole thing. Fascinating to watch.
Once we got through the traffic jam we decided to hike up to Grebe Lake. Not crowded and I found it enjoyable. Six miles, I think, but mostly flat. I can do lots of miles without elevation gains.
We sat at this dried up little pond and ate lunch. Didn't leave any food out since we don't want bears following us.
Anthony decided this lake would be good for a dip, so he swam and I watched.
After our hike we drove back into the main Hayden Valley and pulled over along the river to watch for wildlife at dusk. This guy almost flew into the car.
On the drive back we spotted some elk way up on a hill. It's mating season right now and the bull was making all sorts of loud noises and running around the herd. You can listen to those sounds here if you're curious.
Once again we got back to the cabin super late and made dinner in the dark.
First night we did skillet nachos and tonight is chili dogs.
We woke up Saturday to rain and I was super happy to be in a cabin and not a tent. We had a slow start to the day and didn't get moving til around 11am. Today is Pelican Valley - east side of the park and probably not too many people, we figured. And we were right.
Bears are really active this time of year and in this area, so I was a little on edge the whole time. We have bear spray, but a bigger group would have been better. Most of this hike was a wide open meadow with good sight lines, but the forested parts made me extra nervous.
Luckily the rain had stopped by this point, and we passed one couple leaving who did not see any bears. Good sign.
There's one little thermal area in the middle of this meadow, and you can tell the bison lay and burrow in some of the dirt around here.
Lots of bison out on the horizon. There's a broken bridge out over the creek that's the end of this trail, but we didn't make it that far since many bison were in the path.
The trail sign we passed didn't mention the trail to Turbid Lake, but my phone map showed it, so we decided to head that way. The trail was not as worn and eventually it disappeared, so we had to just figure it out. But we made it, without a bear sighting in the forest.
If I wasn't so nervous about bear area, I think walking around the lake would have been cool. There are some geothermal spots across the other side. But with the clouds and getting late in the day and bears and smoky skies, it was all just a bit eerie for me.
Back out in the big meadow and headed back to the car.
One more forest area to get through.
We saw a huge elk run past the trees in front of us and definitely heard a big animal in the trees behind us. Eeek. Let's get outta here.
Late night dinner, going quicker and easier. These didn't taste as good as I remembered, but it works.
Driving south, home towards the Tetons. I figured we would spend at least a day in this park, but we loved Yellowstone so much, so Tetons only got a drive through this time.