We woke up early in West Yellowstone to head into our Yellowstone adventure. I skipped breakfast to get an extra half-hour or so of sleep while everyone else ate at the hotel. Worth it. I was happy with my granola bar.
We weren’t far from the gate to the National Park. After driving in the park for only a few minutes, we passed our first animal: a bison/buffalo! (Most people would say buffalo, but animal expert Matthew will correct you as if you’ve committed blasphemy if you don’t call it a bison. For the record, it’s also known as a North American buffalo, so I use both interchangeably.) We stopped to take his picture and off we went on our drive to Lamar Valley.
According to Matthew’s animal books, Lamar Valley was supposed to be a hopping area for wildlife. We didn’t see every animal on his list, but we saw enough bison to make up for everyone that was missing. There were hundreds of them! Big ones, little ones, babies, some sitting, some running, some bathing in the stream. It was like Pride Rock of bison. We even saw a couple crossing the street! They had to stop the traffic so that they could pass. Also, hidden among the fluffy bison were a pair of pronghorn antelopes, which are apparently hard to find. Matthew was thrilled to discover them. He would later say they were his favorite part of Yellowstone.
After visiting the valley, we drove to the outer rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone for a picnic lunch. We sat among squirrels (and many flies) and ate some turkey sandwiches. After eating, Matthew was playing on a makeshift see-saw (it was a log on top of another log) with Grampa. He got off before he was put down, and he fell. Lucky for everyone, we had bandaids.
From lunch, we visited Artist Point at the Grand Canyon. This famous Yellowstone landmark boasts a beautiful view of the canyon as well as the gorgeous waterfall that runs through it. Yosemite may have had the tall waterfalls, but I think Yellowstone has it beat with this pretty one. The cliffs were all different colors from the different rocks and minerals that they were composed of. Add in some hydrothermal and volcanic gasses and you’ve got rainbow cliffs. Add a waterfall, and you’ve got a view. I think this was my favorite spot in all of Yellowstone. While I was staring at the cliffs, Matthew found a “very small animal” which he later found out was a pika.
After another drive, we found ourselves in the village around Old Faithful. Now, I kind of figured that Old Faithful was this thing in the ground surrounded by guard rails, maybe a path that leads to it, and that’s it. Well, they’ve built a whole complex around that thing. There was the Old Faithful Inn, the first building they built back in 1902 (I’m going to talk a lot about this place, so I won’t go into detail now), then another lodge, the Visitor’s Center, and the Snow Lodge, each with their own restaurants and gift shops and all the other fixins. It was a gorgeous area. All the buildings had the rustic log cabin look, and were all close enough so that we could walk from place to place. It was like our own cozy little village near Old Faithful. We were staying at the Snow Lodge, which is an adorable little hotel. Everything is very woodsy-feeling. We even had soap shaped like a bear! The only downside was that we had to squish 6 people into a 4 person room, and there was not a lot of wiggle room…
Once we’d settled into our room, we walked down to Old Faithful. All around the geyser were little metal benches for people to get a good view, at a safe distance of course. The park ranger near us drilled in the fact that we were not to touch the water from the geyser. Surprise! It’s hot. What do you think causes the water to shoot out of the hole? Mole-person with a squirt gun? Nope, it’s heat and pressure, duh. After just a few minutes of waiting, there she blew. Very tall water show. We saw the Bellagio, World of Color, now this. And plenty of non-English speakers rushed towards the water to touch it…Then came the park ranger…
After visiting Old Faithful, we headed out to dinner at the grill in our hotel. While sitting there, we decided to go on one last drive to look for animals during the dusky end of the day. We didn’t want to drive in the dark, so we just drove about 30 minutes out in the direction of Hayden Valley with the intention of turning around. On the way, we had our eyes glued on the windows, looking for animals. From far away, anything looks like an animal. Then when you get closer, you realize it’s just a tree stump or a rock or a highway railing. We didn’t see a single thing, but we did get a glimpse of the lake at sunset.
When we got back, Auntie Stacey put Matthew to bed while Memere, Grampa, Mom and I went to take a walk around the Old Faithful Inn (not the lodge, as most everyone had called it. It looks more like a lodge than an inn anyway.) This was one of the most beautiful buildings ever. The whole place was constructed of logs and had a gorgeous tall ceiling. Later I found out that this was the largest log structure in the world. I believe it! It’s also the main inspiration for the Wilderness Lodge, one of my favorite Disney World resorts! We sat by the big fireplace in the middle of the lobby and listened to a fiddler playing in the rafters. It was so relaxing. We also got to catch Old Faithful going off one last time from the balcony of the Inn.
We walked back to our hotel in the chilly air and settled in for bed. In our four-person room, Mom and I took the floor for the first night. It was like we were camping! I won’t sugarcoat it though, it wasn’t exactly glamorous. I was counting the hours until someone could wake up so I could take their bed! By 7:30 I was in bed with Memere.