Day 4 – Monday, July 29, 2019 –Gardiner, MT (Yellowstone)
We slept in… 9 am never felt so good. We awakened and leisurely drank coffee, ate animal crackers and turkey sandwiches (we need to buy some breakfast fixings) and the kids watched TV while we scanned nearby hills and mountains with binoculars. Another beautiful day in Paradise Valley.
We decided today would be a random rest day, as we were tired and didn’t have “a plan” for our week at the park yet. We loaded up and headed into line and into the park we went! We love this place. It is like God (or your deity of choice) threw up all over some random spot in Wyoming, and you got this mish mash of waterfalls, snow capped mountains, geysers, sulfur springs, and beautiful lakes and fevers. And it is the Vegas of National Parks – you want grizzlies, high roller? They’re here. You want a bison? They are lying all over the road, they are sniffing your car, they are goring your children. You want to hang out in a river fed by hot springs? They are all over the place, some even legal to go in! Sign says no alcohol? It’s more a suggestion. You want loads of Asian tourists? Yeah, just like the real Vegas.
We slowly drove the park, with the thought that we would cover the northern part of the Grand Loop Road, maybe having ice cream for lunch. Lunch-dinner. Whatever, it’s vacation! And lots of string cheese because we really have to eat that up. We stopped at a few turn outs along the road – Nymph Lake and Frying Pan Springs. If we aren’t in a hurry, our favorite thing to do is screw with other tourists – pull over suddenly and everyone whips out binoculars. Guaranteed you will have lemming cars within seconds doing the same thing, pulling in.
We motored over the Canyon Village, and hiked along the North Rim Trail, which was a tad drop-offy for Zoe – beautiful views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The water and colors were amazing. We immediately proceeded to the affiliated ice cream area and got the requisite cone to reward ourselves for hiking ¼ mile (okay, further than that, but still).
Along the way, at the base of Washburn Mountain, we ran into a bear jam – a grizzly and her two cubs about 100 yards off the road up a hill! She stayed there a while which was cool, and we were able to watch with and without binoculars.
We then motored up to Tower and over to Mammoth, taking in the sites. What a relaxing day! We stopped by the grocery store and headed back to our little cabin. We met up with our friends from home and grilled out – chicken, brats, and hot dogs. The kids all played happily – we then spied some people in swimsuits returning to their cabin. Oh? We all guessed they had been at the Boiling River and immediately, like lemmings mentioned before, decided even though it was 7:45 pm, WE needed to go there right now. (Sarah spoke with the guy, who was coincidentally also from WI, and he and his friends had actually been rafting – whatever, Boiling River it is!).
We all threw our swimsuits on and hurried into the park and up to the Boiling River – there was a park ranger who was turning into the parking lot, then turned on his lights and sped away. A woman in the parking lot told us it closes at 8 and a ranger clears it out and he’s not here so go fast! We all hurried down the trail with the other rule breakers. Steve and Vanessa’s oldest daughter was impressed by the rule breaking in our family (only on vacation and in controlled settings). We made it to the end of the trail – where hot springs pour over the edge of the river bank into the river, created a hot tub. Zoe discovered there are pockets of ice cold and scalding water where the mixing isn’t so good. Sorry, Zoe. We traipsed through the water, as we all had the realization that maybe it closes because the bears appear at dusk, and we didn’t bring any bear spray. Umm…
We never saw a ranger and had a nice time, no permanent burns. Back we headed for showers and tucking in kids, then Steve came over for more beer. So relaxing!
Miles driven: just park, doesn’t count
Beers drank: Miner Stamp Mill Stout – Miner Brewing Company, Bent Nail IPA – Red Lodge Ales
Day 5 – Tuesday, July 30, 2019 –Gardiner, MT (Yellowstone)
Bright and early, we were awake! Out the door by 7:30 am and off for the long drive through construction all the way down to Fairy Falls – we had been here before in June and this time wanted to do the hike with the kids. Last year, this was where we ended up for the overlook at the Grand Prismatic Spring. Then, this year, Matt and Sarah hiked to Fairy Falls alone (as the kids were not with, which they still have many questions about, including being insulted that Mommy wanted to spend her birthday without all her children climbing all over her).
We snagged a spot in the lot which was 2/3 full, and off we went! A gorgeous day and B and Noah were great hikers. Zoe was mediocre – when she chooses to hike, she has a good clip. When she chooses not to, there is negotiating and shoulder carrying. Less than expected at least. We chose to head to the falls first, as there was too much steam to see the Spring easily earlier in the morning when it is cooler.
This is the perfect hike if you have kids – kids are loud enough to scare away the bears, it is wide, no cliffs or canyon edges, and if they have to pee there is a forest with plenty of logs (true for adults too). You finish at a cascading high waterfall with lots of downed logs and morbidly obese chipmunks that are not scared of humans, who have been feeding them for generations. You and all your hiker friends will have your backpacks rifled through by them.
We enjoyed some time, then hiked back, stopping at the Spring overlook – a beautiful view. We walked back to our car, and then motored to a picnic area. We did see ranger cars with lights on heading to Kepler Cascades, which seemed worrisome. We ate our picnic lunch, watching two large black birds fight over a piece of bread. When you have no cell signal, all of a sudden even birds are interesting.
Back north in the park we headed – passing again by the cascades, there were now 8-10 ranger vehicles and two ambulances and they had closed off the parking area. Despite scouring the news, Twitter, Reddit, and all our usual sources, we can’t figure out what happened. Will update as we find out. We did find out that the same day we were at Teddy Roosevelt (Saturday), a 17 year old guy got gored by a bull bison and had to be airlifted to Bismarck. He claims he wasn’t doing anything to provoke (newsflash, he is a 17 year guy, we suspect he was).
We hit up all the “drives” on the northwest side of the park – first we went to Firehole Lake Canyon drive, where we saw geysers and pools. Amazing!
We then drove down Fountain Flats, which leads to an old bike trail and is along the Firehole River, with hot springs pouring in to it. We then drove down Firehole Canyon Drive, and checked out the waterfall and rapids below, and the swimming hole (which looked amazing!).
We motored back to Gardiner and met up with our friends for ice cream. Then in a very vacation move, we then went and had supper next after ice cream – Yellowstone Pizza Company. Matt was so impressed with B wanting to try a pizza with elk and sundried tomatoes on it. We headed home and kids were dressed and popped into bed, and then Matt joined Steve for a beer.
A huge thunderstorm moved through, with dime sized hail and lightning – very impressive! The first storm like this that we have ever seen here. We’ve never had anything except sun and 80 degrees in our 3 times we have visited – until tonight.
We are exhausted and calling it a day now – until tomorrow…
Miles driven: all park
Beers Drank: Cold Smoke – KettleHouse Brewing Company, Missoula, MT