Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yellowstone National Park

When Megs and I began our initial planning for the trip, we both made a quick list of destinations to help get us started. Guess what place was the first one on both lists??


At the time we were watching the National Parks series by Ken Burns on DVD, so it could partially be attributed that. Or perhaps it was the prospect of seeing thousands of acres of natural wilderness, mountains, valleys, rivers, plains, bison, elk, bears, wolves, geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and on and on and on. All in one place!!!!! What could be better than that?!?!

We woke up ready to go. Excited. Took our leave of Cody, WY and their love affair with Buffalo Bill. Museum, State Park, etc.

Entering through the eastern entrance, we were almost immediately greeted by the expanse of Yellowstone Lake. Just as quickly, we had our first experience of people going insane about seeing wildlife. Folks scrambling all over the road trying to get pictures of a herd of Bison. We jeered that they should go to the Badlands, since we basically camped right next to them there…

Continuing on, our first stop, obviously, was the Visitor’s Center! We were greeted by a very helpful Ranger who we would later name Bob. We told Bob that we were at Yellowstone for the first time and had three days to see as much of it as we can. He showed us on the map how there are two main loops in the park and each one takes about 8 hours to do everything. Sweet, that’s two days! He then suggested that, since it was such a nice day, a hike up Mt. Washburn would be great because you’d get a view of almost the whole park. Done and done.

We had been worried about where we were going to stay in the park. There are a bunch of campgrounds, but they are first come first serve and it is a popular park. And driving in it seemed to us like there were people everywhere… Well, a couple ladies coming out of the visitor center remarked that the park was pretty empty right now. Empty? Really?? I’d hate to see what it is like when full!

Regardless, we went and secured a site for ourselves right away. The place was basically empty. Alright then. Accommodations straightened away, we began the trip up to the Mt. Washburn trailhead. At least twice along the way we had to slam on the brakes and be on the lookout for people streaking across the road to get a better view of bison or deer. Totally ridiculous. We have been in the park for only a few hours and have already seen three herds of bison, there is no need to turn into a crazy person when you see an animal. Stay in the park a little while, you will definitely see more…

We finally reached the trailhead and began hiking. 6 miles round trip, 1400 feet. Cakewalk. I giggled that this trail was marked strenuous compared to what we hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park. I guess the majority of people who visit here aren’t exactly hikers…

It turned out to be a great hike. An even better afternoon to do it. Our exclamation whenever we came upon a great view was, good job Ranger Bob!

The summit of Mt. Washburn was topped with a fire watch station. One of only three still in use throughout the park. I guess most of it is handled by plane now. And you can’t blame them, the person who mans the tower has to live in a single room with limited electricity for the entire season without any breaks or holidays!!! Talk about dedication!

I had to snap a picture of myself on Mt. Washburn since it was obviously named in honor of my friends Kevin and Katie Washburn…

And we took some time looking out over Yellowstone! So awesome…

We headed back down to the RV and then made our way back towards the campground. I lost count of how many times we had to slow down because there was deer way off on the horizon. At one point though, we came upon a real traffic jam, however, because a herd of Bison had decided to slowly make its way over the road. So we got some close up shots!

Further on, we came upon a bridge that no one was crossing. Except for more Bison!! Megs ran ahead for the photo op while I waited in traffic. So funny to see them using the bridge instead of just fording the river. I guess it is inevitable that the animals here learn some non-wild habits…

We finally got back to the campground and performed the surgery on the stove and countertop that I talked about earlier. Went surprisingly well actually, I guess we are pretty handy! Then dinner and bed after a long day, with tons more still to see!!!

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