The Wizard of Yellowstone National Park

Play time at camp

Day 9: Today we would drive less and hike more. We spent a lot of time in the car yesterday, but it’s just how Yellowstone is set up. Today we would only drive about 15 minutes from our campsite and find nearby hikes.

We drove along Yellowstone River and stopped at Mud Volcano. The area changed dramatically in 1979 after a series of earthquakes. Water that would often spew stopped spewing and the forest in the area gradually died. The hillsides are barren or full of downed trees. The air permeates of sulphur but you get use to it. It was exciting to see the few buffalo in the area that just wandered or relaxed near the bubbling hot springs. This is a definite stop for anyone visiting the park.

Laura and I just can’t get enough of viewing nature in action. In a way you feel like you’re at an amusement park being entertained, as if someone is behind the curtain (as in the Wizard of Oz) somewhere producing the sulpher smell, making the water bubble, and queuing the bison to wander in the meadow as you come around the corner.

But we’re not. This is as natural as it gets and it doesn’t get old. You learn to appreciate nature more and respect what it has to offer. Ethan has begun to ask some great questions about how things work and why things are the way they are. He’s enjoyed seeing wildlife roam freely in their natural setting and watching the earth boil from it’s depths. Peaking his interest in nature and helping him understand how we fit into the food chain is one reason why we visit National Parks.

After Mud Volcano, we enjoyed a great hike and lunch along Yellowstone River at LeHardys Rapids. This entire trip water levels are high and the rivers are flowing fast. This area offered some outstanding views of the river. We also saw our first pelican in flight.

Hike at Indian Pond

We then headed past Fishing Bridge along the northshore of Yellowstone Lake. We found a hike along Indian Pond that took us to the Lake. We only did about an hour of the hike before Ethan was beat. It was about 1pm by this time and the sun was beating down on all of us. We decided to get back in the car, grab some cold drinks at the Fish Bridge General Store and find a spot with cell phone service to call family.

Around 3pm we drove over to the shower station where we enjoyed hot showers after going showerless for 3 days. Of course, about an hour later you would never know the kids had taken a shower as they were back in the dirt playing with their toys at our campsite. Oh well, it’s all part of the experience.

Tonight we rocked on dinner. We sautéed onions and garlic, mixed it with corn, black beans, and pinto beans, threw on some cheese, smothered them between tortillas and had delicious quesadillas. We bought a grill specifically for this trip and it’s paid off with meals like this.

We ended our day with a terrible hike out to a natural bridge near our campground. The mosquitoes, for the most part, have ignored us on our trip. They decided to come out in full force on this hike and we called it quits after 20 minutes. Ethan also fell hard and drew some blood.

Tomorrow we say good-bye to Yellowstone National Park and head south to Grand Teton National Park.


Exploring Yellowstone National Park

Midway Geyser Basin
Midway Geyser Basin

Day 8: Up and at ‘em Autumn told us with a loud wail at 5am. No one was ready to get up, especially the rest of the campground. Laura and Autumn were up a lot the night before so rather than fight this 5am wake-up call, I loaded her in the car and went for a drive along Yellowstone Lake. We returned around 7am. Autumn stayed in the car and slept and I prepared breakfast for everyone.

We hit the road by 8:40am because we had a lot of exploring to do today. Since Laura and I visited Yellowstone in the winter of 2002 we didn’t see much of the park. Today we were set to visit the most popular spots that Yellowstone has to offer. On a first summer visit to any national park you just have to bite your tongue and go big, meaning visit the tourist spots that made the park a national park. Yes, there will be crowds to deal with but you do your best to enjoy the experience. On your second visit, you aim for the less popular places where you can find solitude.

Our route today took over 10 hours and 120 miles around the interior of the park. Here is a list of spots that we visited.

  • West Thumb Geyser Basin
  • Old Faithful
  • Midway Geyser Basin
  • Firehole Canyon Drive
  • Museum of the National Park Ranger
  • Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls

Honestly, we were all beat by the end of the day. The kids held up pretty good but were ready to get back to our tent to stretch their legs and eat dinner.

Osprey mother and chicks

The highlights of the day include viewing the herd of bison along Fishhold Canyon Drive, viewing the historic Old Faithful Inn, the views all along Firehole and Gibbons Rivers, and viewing a mother and three baby Ospreys at Lower Yellowstone Falls.

Being in Yellowstone is exciting. As the world’s first national park this place just has history written all over it. It’s full of wildlife and geologic activity. There are a variety of ecosystems to explore and hikes to take you there. The evidence of the 1988 wildfires demonstrates how resilient nature can be. Also, the park is very accessible. If you haven’t seen a map of the park, click here to view it. There are a lot of roads that make it easy for visitors to see most of the park. I wasn’t expecting such accessibility to be honest. I come from visiting Yosemite, Mt. Rainier, North Cascades, Death Valley, Joshua Tree National Parks where you really need to set out by foot to see a lot of the park.

All in all it was a great day to be in Yellowstone National Park.

Welcome to Yellowstone National Park

Welcome to Yellowstone National Park
Holt Family at Yellowstone National Park

Day 7: We said our good-byes to Scottie and his family and made our to Yellowstone National Park. Our route took us through Cody, Wyoming which seemed like a nice town. I don’t know much about Buffalo Bill but he’s big around these parts. There is a huge museum in Cody that is all about him.

We arrived at the East Entrance around 1pm. The drive from Cody through Shoshone National Forest to the East Entrance is a must for park visitors. It’s just a scenic drive with great views. As we got out for our typical family picture in front of the National Park sign, a visitor let us know that we could view a moose on the other side of the street. Of course we delayed the sign photo for a view of the moose. We did catch a glimpse of the moose as we wandered from the meadow into the woods. Later we would learn that a moose sighting in Yellowstone is very rare. There are only about 200 moose in the park so count yourself lucky if you see one.

Yes, there is a moose in this picture.

On our way to our campsite we enjoyed lunch along Yellowstone Lake. The lake is a spectacular site. It is huge and partly surrounded by mountains on the east side. We stopped by Fish Bridge Visitor Center to find out how Ethan could become a Junior Park Ranger. For his age he was given an animal identification guide. For each animal on the guide that sees he gets 10 points. If he earns 70 points then he can receive a Junior Ranger sticker. For an official Junior Ranger badge, he would need to be 5 years old and complete more activities.

We set up camp at Bridge Bay Campground. The campground is along Yellowstone Lake and offers some great views of the lake. We chose to explore the campground by bike and hit the big sites tomorrow.