We slept in til around 10 just because we could and it wasn't too hot. The only downside was that sometime during the night the air mattress we were sleeping on had mysteriously deflated. Brian just bought it the Sunday before so he was a little peeved about that. We decided to leave that problem for later since we wanted to get our day started.
No picture of the pitiful airbed, but here's
something cool we saw on the way to Yellowstone
After some bagels and cream cheese for breakfast and a glance at the park map, we decided to do the entire loop around the park -- about 150 miles -- so we could see everything we wanted to see. It ended up being a really good way to see the park. We set out heading west to Old Faithful from our campsite. The plan was to use a shower on the way so we didn't have to backtrack to the nearest showers. That was a mistake; turns out the showers at the campground west of ours didn't open for another week. Since we had already driven more than 20 miles, we decided we weren't gross enough yet to go all the way back.
No picture of the closed showers, either, but here are some bison
Sidenote: my dad informs be that American "buffalo" are actually bison
It was another 25 miles or so to get to Old Faithful so we started heading in that direction. The drive was beautiful everywhere we went. There was quite a bit of evidence of a massive wildfire that had torn through the park in the 80's. There were a lot of large trees that were scorched but still standing and even more that were littering the ground.
Some of the burnt trees
And then there were the hot springs. They were all over the place, even along the side of the road. There were also many streams and overlooks and general awesomeness that would be impossible to sum up in words. When we got to Old Faithful it was pretty crowded. Turns out that was because the geyser was erupting as we arrived. Of course, we didn't know that and took our sweet time getting over there. It was just finishing when we got to see it, which is what Brian had predicted would happen earlier in the day. Oh well. We had about 90 minutes to kill until the next eruption so we checked out the museum and gift shop. We also made some sandwiches for lunch and grabbed our cameras.
We had a front row seat for the next eruption and it was pretty cool. Brian used his fancy camera to get some pictures and I took a video on the GoPro. After that, we walked around the rest of the area and checked out some of the other cool geysers and hot springs next to Old Faithful. According to the museum exhibit, that area has the highest density of active hydrothermal features in the world, all within sight of the visitor center there (or something like that). There were some cool ones and Brian got some more good pictures.
Hydrothermal features near Old Faithful
After our walk it was already 3:30 so we decided to move on. We started driving north toward Mammoth Hot Springs. On the way we saw a lot more bison and I saw my first elk! The elk were right in the road and enormous. The ranger was flagging us on so we kept driving and took a scenic detour down Firehole Lane (or something like that -- Brian threw out my map. He's clearly not a pro blogger like I am.) and saw more big hydrothermal areas spewing steam.
Next we stopped at the Paint Pots trail. There was a boardwalk that weaved throw an area with lots of hydrothermal features like hot springs and mud pots that were all sorts of fun colors. There were some really bubbly caldron-like ones and some that just spewed steam. One of the mudpots was tinged shades of blue and pink and was flinging mud a fairly good distance.
Cool hydrothermal features
At one point we passed a guy warning another person on the trail that if you touched the water (they clearly had) then you might go blind if you touch your eye. Who knows if it's true, but Brian commented after we'd passed them that "the Ranger also wants you to know that you're a [inappropriate word I won't repeat here]." Needless to say, there were a lot of signs saying not to touch anything. Including the bacterial mats. Although it was tempting because they were cool looking.
Deposits collecting around a hot spring
After we left that trail, there was a scenic drive up to Mammoth Hot Springs. They really were mammoth. He walked up the steps and admired all the colors and shapes of the mineral deposits. There was a little water flowing down but apparently sometimes there can be a huge rush of water; there was a picture of the flow from the 1970's and it looked really cool. We walked all the way top to take some pictures and admire the scenery before heading back down.
Mammoth Hot Springs
We made a quick stop in the town at Mammoth Hot Springs and noticed two private residences right next to the restrooms. We decided they must have been passed down in the families of whoever owns them now. But we also figured that the park admin must be trying to run them out because they'd built a parking lot and rest stop in their front yards. With such an enormous park, you'd think they could've found a spot more than 4 feet away. But what do I know?
After Mammoth Hot Springs we were about 100 miles into our journey. There wasn't a whole lot we specifically wanted to see on our way back around the other half of the loop, so we started driving and occasionally stopped at interesting overlooks and such. We also quickly realized that this was the best time of day to be driving all over Yellowstone since it was getting to be dusk and the animals were coming out. We saw the typical bison, elk, mule deer, and prairie dogs/groundhogs/small-furry-animal-things all over the place. It was incredible how the animals hang out right by the road.
We also noticed that driving around Yellowstone was GREAT for our gas mileage.
Several places along the road, there would be a lot of cars pulled over, and it was always obvious in those cases that a crowd was forming to take pictures of an interesting animal. We stopped this way and saw a black bear and her cub in the distance. We also came across a beaver with quite an audience.
Black bears by a stream
From a distance we thought this guy was a moose,
but Brian zoomed in with his camera and confirmed it was just an elk
Our last scenic stop of the day was at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and it was very worth it. We arrived as the sun was going down so the canyon was especially pretty. The canyon itself was really deep and colorful and there was a huge waterfall at one end to top it all off.
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
On our way back to the campsite, we stopped at the showers at an RV campground up the road from our campground. We got to the showers around 9, which turned out to be just in time to get in before they closed. Brian was less than thrilled that we hadn't been told we'd need to pay for showers and there was a line in the women's showers, but we were both happy to take a long, hot shower. Afterward, we headed back to camp.
Me at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
We made a Mexican rice dish with sausage which was delicious and built a huge campfire. Brian tried to find the leak in the air mattress, but had to luck. We decided to blow it up right before we went to bed in the hopes that it stay full a little longer. We killed off the gallon of painkillers from earlier in the week in honor of our last night of camping and then packed up camp. The alarms were set early so we could be on the road by 8am. The plan for the next day was to drive as long as we possibly could since we had about 16 hours left to get to Alameda. Leaving extra early left some time for us to detour through Grand Teton National Forest and stop for overlooks if we felt so inclined.