Monday, June 13th
To say we were tired after our all day driving marathon would be an understatement but we got up Monday morning ready to explore the park. The Mickelsen's and Chugg's had been able to go in the park Sunday afternoon after they had set up their trailers but Monday was our first day.
We were staying in West Yellowstone, Montana and it was a great place to stay. The West Entrance was literally one street over. It was so close! We were right on the edge of the park.
The Chugg's had to leave on Tuesday so we planned on exploring the northern loop with them on Monday.
Here is a map of the park:
We made it!
We were officially in Yellowstone!
Our first stop was the Artists Paintpots.
It is pretty amazing that the Earth is so active and the water is "boiling." Kind of scary and awesome all at the same time.
The view from the top of the hike.
This was some seriously thick mud that was bubbling. It would spit it pretty far so you had to watch out that it didn't get you. A few of us were hit!
T posing by one of the very pretty pools. And a mom and Kayla photobombing in the background.
We then continued our drive north. We stopped to check out this beautiful waterfall. The wind at this pull-off was so crazy! We didn't even let the kids get out because it was so strong.
We loved how the terrain was constantly changing.
Just one of the MANY beautiful views of a valley.
Our next stop was Mammoth Hot Springs.
This is from the top of Mammoth.
After our hike to the top of Mammoth, we decided it was time for lunch. We headed over to the visitor center where they have picnic tables and set up camp.
After lunch, we changed into our swimsuits because we were going to go swimming at a place where hot water joins the river and makes it a perfect swimming temperature. We were pretty excited for this! We headed north out of Mammoth but pretty soon we were at the North Entrance - hmm, we had missed it somewhere. While Jared (Chugg) got out to talk to the people at the gate I was sitting there looking down the road and noticed a big arch and something deep in my brain was telling me I had wanted to see that arch but I couldn't remember why.
Jared came back and informed all of us that the swimming spot had been closed because the river was flowing too high and it wasn't safe =-( There were some very sad kids (ok, and adults too). We had been looking forward to having that experience. Since our plans had changed I said we should go check out the arch so that's what we did.
Then I remembered that I had seen this arch on a video I had watched about Yellowstone. If I remember correctly, (which I could totally be wrong) this was the original entrance to Yellowstone and that arch is really old. Pretty cool. So we took some pictures.
On our way back into the park we stopped to take family pictures at the Yellowstone sign. The one at the West Entrance was super crowded and we didn't want to wait for a chance to take a picture. There was no waiting at the North Entrance!
We are totally not dressed for a perfect family photo op but o-well. You get what you get.
Kayla doesn't like her picture taken so she hid behind the sign and gave a thumbs up to represent her ~ silly girl!
We forced her to come out and take a real picture with us. It's not Christmas card worthy but still a good one for the blog.
Driving back through Mammoth, we saw the elk again just hanging out in town so we decided to stop and take pictures. They just walk through the middle of the town - it's pretty crazy!
When we left Mammoth, we headed east along the top of the loop. We took Blacktail Plateau Drive, which is a one way dirt road that goes parallel to the main road but just off in the woods/mountains more. We were hoping to see more wildlife on this road.
At one point we came upon a whole bunch of cars that had stopped because there was a black bear off the side of the road. The Chuggs were leading the way, then the Mickelsen's and then us so by the time we all stopped and got out, Jared was the only one in our group able to see the bear. It had walked up and over a ridge. The rest of us were bummed we didn't get to see it.
We continued on and Marty spotted 2 black bear off to the right of the road. The Chugg's had missed them so they came back to see them. We watched them for a little bit but then they disappeared into the trees. It was pretty cool to see them - not too close but not too far away either. Just right.
After we got back on the main road, we headed to Tower Falls. It was a very easy, quick hike to check it out.
Just another beautiful valley:
Did I mention how beautiful it was there?
Our next top was the Upper and Lower Falls on the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
We hiked to the Brink of Lower Falls. A-MAZ-ING!
Here is the view of the Upper Falls from the Lower Falls trail.
You zig-zag down the side of this mountain and the whole time I was thinking "oh this is going to be fun going back up!" It was funny because I had no idea what we were hiking too but I wasn't thinking anything like this! You stand right on top of the edge of the waterfall.
Did I already mention A-MAZ-ING? It truly is indescribable.
The power of that water is amazing! It was so awesome to see and experience from right on top!
Also from that point, you can see right into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Pictures just don't do things justice. It was pretty awesome. Although, having just been to the real Grand Canyon last August, this didn't even compare in size but it was still pretty darn amazing!
After hiking back out of there, we were pretty wiped out but that was definitely worth the hike to see! Trevor did amazing! He hiked the whole thing and didn't complain once! He was such a trooper!
We headed back to camp on the road that goes through the middle of the park. The Chuggs were so smart in their recommendation that we plan to get pizza for dinner that night. No one had the energy to cook that that was the perfect ending to our amazing day!