Yellowstone National Park – trip report

We are back from our great Yellowstone adventure!
It was most definitely that – an adventure. In a nutshell, the trip went well, but it wouldn’t be a trip of ours without some sort of excitement or mishap. This time we had our friend Wouter, who is visiting from the Netherlands, along with us. The good thing is that we didn’t kill each other and neither did any of the wild animals we encountered.We experienced just about every kind of weather possible for that area: snow, blizzard, freezing rain, sleet, heavy winds, thunder and lightening storms, sunshine, rain, and scorching heat.

The best parts of the trip was the incredible scenery and wildlife that we got to see, simply amazing. The worst parts was when we had to dig our campsite out of a foot of snow, then being freezing cold all night. And of course, literally scorching the skin off both my ears later in the week. Ah, fun times…..

I did keep a journal of our trip while we were there (in an actual notebook this time, not on a computer! Imagine that! Lol). I will jot it down below, this will be a long post.

Yellowstone Road Trip 2008 Summary:

1500 Kilometers & 18 hours in the car – each way

40+ miles of outback hiking

8 days in the park

6 nights camping and very little sleep

Bad sunburns and 4 ears with second degree burns

1 knee dislocated

Animal sightings:

Hundreds and hundreds of Buffalo (Bison)

Hundreds of Elk

7 Bears (5 Black and 2 Grizzly)

2 Moose

1 Big Horned Sheep

2 Beavers

Lots of Marmots

Hundreds of Ground Squirrels

3 Foxes

4 Coyotes

1 Snake

7 Pronghorns

It was quite the trip.

We started our journey from Vancouver BC at 11:00pm Monday June 9. I claimed the backseat so I could sleep for a bit – although it was a very uncomfortable sleep as the other half of the backseat was so crammed full of our stuff. They warned us at the border that we may have trouble crossing through the mountains between Washington and Idaho as there was a big blizzard going on. Lovely. A blizzard – in JUNE. Sure enough there was a major blizzard going on but we made it through without chains on our tires. Then it snowed on and off the rest of the way to Yellowstone. The guys took turns driving until about 6am when we stopped for an early breakfast, then I took a turn driving. It was so hard to stay awake so we stopped at a convenience store to load up on energy drinks and candy – I need sugar!!!

We pulled into Yellowstone National Park around dinnertime and it was snowing pretty hard. Um, is this June or JANUARY???? Crazy. Luckily we were all in agreement to skip finding a campsite that night and just stay in a hotel in the town of West Yellowstone (just outside the main gate to the park). The hotels were all booking up fast, but we found one called the Three Bear Lodge – and they had a hot tub! Woohoo!! After going out to a cute 50’d diner for dinner, we all rushed back to go sit in the hot tub. I secretly wished we could stay at the hotel every night of the trip.

ussnow.jpg

We did however stay there the next night as well as the weather was a total blizzard. But we did spend the day inside the park doing a hike. Yes in the snow, while it was snowing. Not my idea of fun but I went along with it. It was COLD and of course we didn’t do the regular tourist short hike thing, we did a big outback hike – where not many people go. I think we saw 3 other people on the entire hike – and it was several hours long. The cool thing we did come across were some boiling mud pots.

Thursday morning we checked out of the hotel (I was very sad) and we drove to the Canyon area of the Park to the campground where we had a reservation. Little did we know that this area is the highest elevation in the park, hence the coldest and the area with the most snow. We got to our campsite and I wanted to cry. It was covered in about a foot of snow. A ranger came by with shovels and helped the guys did the campsite out so we had some room to put the tents up. Gets even better. We had to put the tents on top of a cement slab, then we couldn’t find the fire pit. Brent eventually found it, buried under 2 feet of snow! I was so not looking forward to the night ahead of us. Off we went to another hike, this one was by the petrified tree and we went on a backcountry hike to the Lost Lake. It was actually pretty nice, through a valley with no snow.

snowsite.jpg

here I am watching Brent dig the campsite out

snowpit.jpg

Our fire pit, once we found it buried under the snow. Needless to say, we never did get a fire going.

winterwonderland.jpg
A Winter Wonderland – in June?????

Back at the campsite later that night – it was brutal. We were all freezing cold all night long despite wearing layers and layers of clothes and being inside sleeping bags that were supposed to be guaranteed to negative 12 temperatures. We were sleeping on thin thermorest air mattresses that were like an inch thick. When I tried to sleep on my side, my side went numb! It was not a good night. We moved to a different campground the next day – in a much lower part of the park that had no snow. Much better.

The next few days consisted of geyser watching and more outback hikes. Apparently (according to our guide books), only 1% of visitors to Yellowstone actually venture off the main roads and get out into the back country. There was really a lot of amazing scenery that we saw hiking that we wouldn’t have seen unless we ventured out there.

scenery.jpg

morningglory.jpg

One of my favorite hikes was near the famous Old Faithful geyser area.We followed a trail across a bridge into a huge valley then we got to walk through it amongst all the grazing buffalo who were stationed there. Of course we gave them a wide berth but there were times when we were as little as 8 feet away from them.It was almost surreal walking amongst them. Even though they appear to be calm and friendly, they are unpredictable and have charged at people and gored them. On our way back to the car, we came across a valley with hundreds of them. There were tons of babies too, they were just adorable! We had to wait to cross the bridge as all the buffalo were walking across it. We had already encountered many “Bison Jams” on the roads while driving, but this was our first while we were pedestrians. Brent got down and was taking pictures of the Buffalo surrounding us as close as he could get and this is when he dislocated his knee. He popped it back in but his knee was really sore the remainder of our trip and is still sore.

bisonvalley1.jpg

bisonvalleybridge.jpg

bisonvalley2.jpg

The next big hike we did was at Lemar Valley – its supposed to be THE place to see wolves. Brent was dying to see a wolf. 5 hours of hiking in the sun – did we see a wolf? Nope. We did see wolf poop if that’s any consolation.

antlers.jpg

scenery2.jpg

We were lucky on our drive back from the hike though as we saw a bear on the side of the road. We stopped to take pictures of it, along with the many other tourists already with their cameras out. A group of not so bright people got way too close to the bear and it fake lunged at them. Suddenly we saw this group of screaming tourists running for their cars.

The hikes were long and tough in some places. What looks like nice flat grass from a distance is actually very trampled and treacherous terrain up close. Huge holes, mounds, and gullies from the buffalo trampling it. We really had to watch where we stepped. (Also the huge piles of buffalo poop – Wouter stepped on one our first day here and he slid though it and almost fell into it! That was a pretty hilarious moment!)

The weather started to get better our last few days there and it was actually quite hot during the day. I was really good at applying sunscreen to my face 3 times a day and my arms and legs. I also made the guys put sunscreen on too. We all forgot to put sunscreen on our ears though. Actually I don’t know if I ever put sunscreen on my ears before…. But since we were at such a high altitude the sun was a lot stronger. We all burnt our ears. Brent was lucky and his barely got burnt. Wouter and I weren’t so lucky. Our ears were BRIGHT red and extremely sore. Neither of us could sleep on our sides or have anything even close to touching our ears. I had to sleep flat on my back which I hate. The next day Brent checked our ears and saw that we both had second degree burns on our ears. 2nd degree burns on our ears!!!! So very painful. Crap. So that meant we couldn’t put anything on them cause we had open wounds.

That led to my purchase of a dorky hat. We were going to be spending more time in the sun and I had to cover my ears. Brent wouldn’t let me go a minute in the sun without my silly hat after that. I hate wearing hats.

hats.jpg

Brent and I went horseback riding for a couple hours one day. It was so hot out! This was Brent’s very first time on a horse!! I warned him that he would be sore after and all that cause it was his first time. Turns out he wasn’t sore at all after but I was! Figures. We had fun though, Brent had a fabulous time. He now wants to get a horse. *sigh*

horses.jpg

Our very last hike was really long but really beautiful. We found a kill site where it looked like possibly a pack of wolves had enjoyed a nice elk supper recently. As the guys were checking out the pile of bones, I walked back to the trail to wait for them. Suddenly a Grizzly bear jumped out of the bushes and ran down the trail right in front of me, disappearing over the hill. I was stunned but called to the guys, who had missed it. They had so badly wanted to see a bear while we were hiking. I told them what I saw and they got so excited, both of them clutching their cans of bear spray, they hurried down the trail in pursuit of the grizzly but we never did see it again. At least I got to see a grizzly up close, hehe.

Our last night in the campground we sat at the picnic table and played UNO – that game is awesome, hehe. Right in the middle of game, some clouds came over and the wind majorly picked up. Cards went flying just as the rain started in a split second. “Grab the cameras! Get in the car!” we all jumped up, managing to grab everything off the table and the UNO cards scattered around the campsite and we jumped into the car. I don’t think I ever saw the 3 of us move so fast, lol!

campsite.jpg
that’s our campsite down there with the silver car and the orange tent

elksign.jpg

town.jpg
this little town was close to our campground – it is just residences for the staff who work in the town of Mammoth Hot Springs. I thought it closely resembled the town of “The Others” in Lost. Any Lost fans out there? Do you agree with me?

The next morning we got up real early and left Yellowstone for our journey back home. We stopped at Fairmont Hot Springs to soak in the pools for a little while, which was nice. Then we continued on to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. Our destination for the night. We checked into a hotel and the next morning we wereoff to Silverwood Amusement Park & Boulder Beach Water Park.

Silverwood was really cute, kind of like a mini Disneyland with the happy music blaring out of all the speakers. The wooden rollercoasters were really fun, but on the corkscrew one, I bashed my head really hard on the restraint thing that fit over my shoulders, and I had a bad headache the rest of the day.We all really enjoyed the last half of the day though which we spent at the water park. The waterslides that you take the tubes down were SO much fun!! I haven’t been on a waterslide since I was 12, so its been a while. They also had a lazy river so we floated in our tubes around that for awhile too. So much fun!

us3lastday.jpg

uslastday.jpg
Tired, sun burnt, and sooo ready to go home….

After that we drove straight home and we got home around 1am. Straight to bed, it was so so nice to be in my own bed again. We slept in until 10am the next morning – the longest stretch of sleep I’ve had in weeks! Hehe

Well that was our trip – what an incredibly long post, sorry for that. The mini book version of the trip will be out in about a week! lol

sign.jpg