The last few days have blended together. Time again is passing in a weird way. I remember feeling that way when my brother and I were here a few years ago.
It takes us 3 hours to drive 40 miles But we stop and see mind-blowing sites. We stop for wildlife. We stop to use the cleanest restrooms I have ever seen in any sort of park anywhere. (Seriously! Vault toilets with not a speck of poop or a stink of urine. In fact, most smell like apple cinnamon or baby powder. Yellowstone what is your secret to the cleanest restrooms in the US?!?!?).
Anyways, the prestige of Yellowstone National Park cannot be underestimated. It is becoming one of my favorite places on Earth. And also making me real excited for the rest of this trip and the parks I have not visited.
We woke up this morning and ate a delicious breakfast from the Grant Village General Store Grill. As we were attempting to change in the parking lot (it got warm and we were in wool pajamas), a guy with a pitbull and great dane strolled by. We weren’t changing yet so we stopped and gave the dogs some love. This great dane was HUGE.Wowzies. I leaned in for a selfie and he surprised me with a big wet sloppy kiss.
The owner, Jon, was from Colorado (of course!) and we got his Facebook info to keep in touch. I love when things like this happen! We finished getting changed and headed towards Mammoth.
We stopped at the Indian Creek Campground parking lot to use the facilities and ended up chatting with a man named, Kenny. Kenny had been living in Santa Cruz and eventually realized the cost of living in California wasn’t worth it. He was on his way back to New Jersey where his roots are. He seemed like the type of guy who liked to roam, not sure New Jersey is permanent for him. We got into a discussion about the beauty of nature and how this country has so much to offer. So nice to meet someone else that appreciated the world in a similar way that Amy and I do. Hi Kenny! Hope you are well!!
Moving on- Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces are beautiful. They are travertine terraces with pools of bright turquoise waters shrouded in steam. If you look beyond the pool below you will see the village of Mammoth. Click to the next photo to see more of the pools.
There was a huge bighorn sheep roaming the terraces. It was so close!! It didn't seem at all to care that humans were right in its home. We read the sheep like the terraces because of the minerals they gain from licking the surface.
The formations here are unreal. It's hard to believe they exist even as I am staring directly at them. Click through the slide show below to explore the terraces.
We walked the boardwalk loops and then decided we had fulfilled our uphill workout for the day 😊
The village of Mammoth was insane with no parking so we skipped it and headed to explore the road between Mammoth and Tower Junctions. We stopped at some random parking lot before a service road with amazing views.
Amy put together one of her infamous charcuterie plates and we sat in our chairs and ate/split a beer (we’ve really become lightweights…). A woman came back to the parked car next to us and informed us she had been out hunting for coyote poop. She gathers information about genetics and roaming patterns. I didn’t even know this was a thing. Kind of a cool job. Different. She probably gets to hike around a lot of cool places.
Our campsite for night was at Canyon Village. Another large volume campground, but with hot showers and running water available I can deal with that. We drove back, showered, and went to bed before 9PM. Something about the sun, altitude, and wind is really exhausting. Plus, we were up at 5AM the next morning.
Why so f’ing early do you ask? Two reasons: 1. Wildlife. Duh. 2. We needed to secure a campground that was first come first serve. And we really had our hearts set on Slough Creek, despite the 2.5 mi gravel road entrance. The campground is away from the road and in the middle of the woods right before Lamar Valley. Plus, it was the closest option for an easy exit to Bozeman the next day.
We headed straight to Lamar. he first come first serve thing is tricky in the parks. Once you are in you are in. You can opt to stay over and over again and won’t lose your site. I like that the National Park Service doesn’t allow for every single site in the parks to be reserved. They allow about half to be reserved but leaving the rest open allows people flexibility when they visit.
We hit a bison jam and then took road to Slough Creek. The road was littered with potholes and hazards. We took our time, even let someone pass us. It was 630AM when we arrived and most of the first come first serve start posting open sites around 7/730. We finally rolled up to the campground and the host shouts, “Come on over! We have one site left!”.
YAAAAYYYYY!! Lucky us. We snagged the last spot, paid, and drove back to Lamar Valley.
At this point we were dying for some real coffee. The coffee inside Yellowstone taste like convention center coffee. Watery. Almost like tea. So we drove straight through Lamar Valley to Cooke City, Montana.
This is an adorable town 4 miles from the northeast entrance of Yellowstone. It’s an old mining town and is a great half day trip. We went for the espresso. I am happy to report we found bold espresso and scrumptious breakfast at a little place called Pilot’s Perk.
Since we now had energy and full bellies we drove to Trout Lake for a steep uphill hike. But the view were 100% worth it. We came upon this small lake pristine lake. There were reflections of the mountains and trees from every angle. I am a sucker for a good reflection snapshot. Click through the slides below to support my obsession with reflections.
With our workout complete for the day we went in search of a nice wading spot in the Lamar river. There are so many fly fishermen out here. We were trying to avoid disturbing them and ended up walking/semi-sliding down a steep dirt hill path to the river.
But again, 100% worth it. Teva sandals probably weren’t the best choice but I wanted the water shoe feature for the creek. The water was COLD but so refreshing. We waded up to our knees and watched some people fishing.
Man, so much patience required in fishing.
We hiked back up, which was easier than going down, and drove to a nice spot smack dab in the middle of the action. There was small grass terrace where we sat and ate our tuna fish sandwiches, courtesy of Chef Amy 😊 The bison were all around us on the valley floor. I edited the blog and Amy did some reading. It was relaxing and nice to not feel like we had to be somewhere.
The sun was hot so we found another (safer) area to wade. I am pretty sure the old Asian man that was fishing downstream tried to tell me it was dangerous and I should wade somewhere else. There was a language barrier but I think he was trying to shoo me away.
Not to be deterred, we assessed the situation and determined there were no safety concerns and plopped our chairs down in the river. The water was…invigorating. 😊. We split a beer and sat in the sun discussing our plans for Glacier National Park next week.
We wanted to secure a prime spot for dusk so we headed back towards the main part of the valley.
Currently, I am sitting in the best seat in the house for wildlife watching. We have been in this small parking lot for over 4 hours but we set ourselves up nice. The van is strategically parked and our chairs are strategically placed. We’ve been getting great use out of the new binoculars watching the bison go through their evening routine.
It’s mating season for the bison, so the males are sparring and trying to hump the females. And are they very vocal. They make this grunting growling noise but look like they are retching or gagging as they make the noise. I can’t look away.
A while ago the bison made their way up from the valley floor (rather quickly) and before we knew it they were too close for comfort. We were at the front of the car as a large bison approached our chairs and passed by the rear of the car.
We sat (trapped) in the van for 10 minutes surrounded by bison crossing the road. It was spectacular and a bit scary all at the same time. I had the feeling of being trapped. I was also concerned that one of the bison was going to ram the van with its horns. That would be a real day ruiner.
A few minutes ago we heard wolves. We weren’t sure if that was what we heard for sure until a very authentic looking Montana man came over and asked us if we were making wolf noises?! I’m sorry, what?? You think WE were making those noises. I can’t. We told him no way, and he confirmed we had definitely heard the wolves howl.
The bison are getting really vocal, it’s getting dark and Amy has stated she can’t watch a bison be killed by a predator. She agreed to just look away but we are both tired and need to eat dinner. We are heading back to Slough Creek for another freeze dried meal and some shut eye.
We leave Yellowstone tomorrow for Bozeman, Montana. We splurged on the hot springs campground there. I’ll keep ya posted!!!
If anyone needs any Yellowstone information please feel free to contact me!
Rachel (RNRN) Roaming with Rachel Travel
PS: I have a video of us getting way too close to the bison (on accident!) and am going to try to post it to Facebook because it won't upload here. If you want to see it just message me and I will send it to you.