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Caves, Canyons, Volcanoes, and Valleys

Up and at ‘em! We were out the door (or out the campground I guess, since we don’t actually live in a home with a door…) before 7AM. We spotted a female elk with her baby eating and a black bear dashed across the road- all before breakfast.

I drove us back to Gull Point Rd for breakfast with a view. The picnic area we stopped at overlooked the lake and there were some workers painting the tables. Of course, we started up a conversation with the woman after she complimented us on our van. And of course, she was an ex-nurse!

She had a great story- she had come from Toronto decades ago and worked as a nurse in Vegas back when Vegas was still classy and enchanting. When show business was all about the showmanship, not the extremism that pollutes the Vegas strip today.

Our breakfast views

She and her husband volunteer for the park in exchange for free camping. They have a self- contained RV and stay in a specific area of the park designated for workers and volunteers. Sounds like they have a pretty sweet gig. She was an absolute delight and seemed like someone who had lived and continues to live their life with zest. We wished each other safe travels and Amy and I continued north.

We stopped at view geothermal sites that we had missed the day before including the mud volcano and the stinky sulfur pits. Cue children yelling, "It smells like farts!!!" followed by sprays of fake laughter from their parents.

Below is the mud volcano (which is literally bubbling like boiling water by the way) and a pit near the edge of the river blowing off some steam. Also pictured is the 'dragon's mouth'. This cave constantly has water sloshing about and rumbles from the geothermal activity deep in the cave can be heard as echoes. It also seems to be steaming from the mouth like a dragon- hence the name.

We explored the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and appreciated the tall waterfalls and deep gorge. I had no idea this existed here and was pleasantly surprised.

We saw an osprey nest with babies via a pair of borrowed binoculars. This made us realize- we needed better binoculars.

I've circled the osprey below in green.

Sick of crowds at the major sites we opted to spend the rest of the afternoon at Lamar Valley. For me, this is the most enchanting place in Yellowstone.

View from top of Dunraven Pass between Canyon and Tower Villages

We made a pit stop at Tower Junction and purchased some fancy new Bushnell binoculars. Again, we used money donated at the Van Shower to buy these- so thanks!! These are really going to enhance our wildlife viewing experiences. My old binoculars don’t even come close to the views that these provide.

We took them straight to Lamar Valley to test them out. Lamar is an area in Yellowstone known for it’s wildlife population. Bison are a dime a dozen and it’s not uncommon to see bears or even wolves at dawn and dusk. Granted, we were going in the middle of the blazing hot afternoon but we were going for ambiance.

One of my favorite views in Yellowstone

Lamar Valley tends to be less hectic than the rest of the park. Sure, there are people trying to do the same thing we were, but it’s not as crowded as some of the main attractions in the park. Except for the occasional bison jam....

We posted up at a pullout and made ourselves a tasty charcuterie plate. It was so freeing to just stop and enjoy the time in the valley. To just sit and watch the bison roam by as we ate our snacks and took in the views. It was the first moment that I truly felt like – I am doing this. Like, for real doing it. I am just chilling and enjoying my lunch in some gorgeous outdoor sanctuary. And everything I need is in the van behind me. I loved every minute of this moment. AND I SAW A BALD EAGLE (My spirit animal. Obviously). The last pic in the slideshow below below has a green arrow drawn to the eagle. Click the arrow to the right to see all the images.

As we sat and people/bison watched a group arrived from Lone Star Ranch in Big Sky, Montana. Two couples in their 60s or 70s and a tour guide hopped out of the car. Well, of course Amy and I made friends with said tour guide (super cool guy from Maine of all places!!) and got some info on the bison. They were a fun group and we appreciated the wildlife info from the guide (unfortunately I forgot to ask his name!).

Time passes oddly in Yellowstone. One minute it’s noon and the next it’s 4PM. And then the 40 mile drive takes 2 hours because Yellowstone doesn't have any 'cut through' roads and you have to drive in big loops to get anywhere.

I can’t wrap my head around what time it is, what day it is, where I am supposed to be going, or how the day got away from me so quickly. But, I LOVE IT. There is something thrilling and so enchanting in not having a schedule. Not planning my day around meals or my things to do list is liberating. Not watching the clock for hourly vitals or jumping up every two seconds to keep a patient in bed has been glorious. This is exactly what I needed. This feeling is my favorite part of long term travel!

And there are waterfalls everywhere!

Back at camp our neighbors immediately introduced themselves and they were from Bozeman, Montana! (Our next stop!!) They were so ready to give us all the information about their town. They even offered to put us up and host us in their driveway when we got to Bozeman. Unfortunately, we will be in Bozeman before they leave Yellowstone. But it’s the thought that counts!!

They gave us newspaper to start our fire and we warmed up with some wine. We then ate the most amazing freeze dried dinner. No jokes. I had purchased two packets of freeze dried beef stroganoff from the store and it was delicious!! And so satisfying.

We are heading to Mammoth Terraces tomorrow and I am super excited. Last time I was in the park this area was closed and it looks absolutely gorgeous.

Sneak peek Mammoth:

Rachel (RNRN)

Roaming with Rachel Travel


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