A trip to Yellowstone National Park
by rufusni on November 6, 2012
Our second day at Yellowstone, it took us a long time to get into the park as traffic was badly backed yp due to buffalo on the road - but we did get up close to them I suppose as we drove past. Our first stop for the day was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, first driving up to Inspiration Point for the view, and then across to Uncle Toms Cabin, from where we walked to Artists Point. There is a path, or should I say steps down to the falls but I skipped these and headed on as I had fallen and hurt my ankle badly and we were planning to hike Mount Washburn the next day so I didn't want to overtax it today with steps. The path was nice and we reached Artists Point for a few photos of the falls before eating our picnic. The falls are nice, and worth a visit. The path also meant we got away from most of the crowds who drive from one outlook to another.We then headed down to see Old Faithful. We parked, and went to get a map and check the times of Old Faithful. I decided that I'd wait for the next time Old Faithful was due to go off, and so went off to the cafe and bought a take away coffee and found a bench to sit and watch. It was interesting that most of the crowd was at the visitors side of the semi-circular viewing area, and fewer at the far end were I was. Old Faithful may not me as faithful as once but it is still reasonable regular, though it was 10 minutes later when I was there than the Park Service's calculation. It kept bubbling and steaming and I was on tenderhooks at several points but then it would calm down again. It finally went off it was quite spectular as water shot up, and the noise it made was unexpected.After it went off, most visitors headed back into the visitors centre, few ventured out up Geyser Hill to see the other features of the valley, with bubbling waters, steam rising, sulphur spewing, coloured pools. The range were quite amazing of the differences. Some geysers are frequent, others infrequent, some regular others sporadic. Castle Geyser was steaming away, while Grotto Geyser was gurgling and steaming. Some of the smaller features are interesting as well. Then I loved Beauty and Chromatic Pools, the colours caused by thermophiles were beautiful, but while Morning Glory is often lauded I thought the other two more stunning. Then Sawmill Geyser was gushing water out some of it onto the boardwalk going past it, so you had to time your walk by it so not to get soaked. It was well worth the walk to see all these features, and it seems few visitors venture out to see them. They see Old Faithful and then spend time in the visitors centre and shops (which were busy). We headed back to the Visitors Centre and explored the exhibit there which was colourful and bright. And then a short wander around the shops before heading back to camp for dinner.The next day we planned an early start, we planned to hike Mount Washburn. On driving up to the pass, we saw a bear in one of the meadows below the road. Now the altitude made this hike tough, but the views over the park were incredible. Most people who stop in the car park walk a little up the hill to get to a view point...but this is a rough path and a fair amount of a climb. Most of the path in June was clear of snow though we did hit one tricky snow bank (I slipped on it coming back and decided as my bum was already wet and cold it was as easy to slide along some it). My ankle started to give grief about 3/4 of the way up, so while the rest went on, one took pity on me and turned back with me and I hobbled my walk back. We reached the car park and found a spot in the sun (as it was cool at this altitude) to enjoy some food. There were some amazing views even as far as I went, but you need to be prepared for a hike...it is steep and a rough track, and you'll need to bring lots of water too...but worth it!We headed down to Canyon Village, and wathced the film in the Visitors centre, and a wander around the exhibits - and this place was really good. Lots of information about the geology, that Yellowstone is really a supervolcano, with the park situated in a caldera formed by a previous explosion. It explained that volcanic activity below created geothermic features here as the magma was closer to the surface here than in most other places. Well worth a stop!We headed onto Norris Geyser Basin. It is home to the world's tallest geyser - Steamboat...but with my ankle being sore I walked around the Porcelian Basin, so coloured due to its white colour. Norris has a high water temperature so there are more steam features here. The white colour makes this place look very alien, combined with hissing steam and coloured water running off. Black Growler Steam Vent is the first feature you'll hear and see on walking down in to the basin it was so loud in its roars. It is an active valley, you can see even small features forming with just a few bubbles.We saw a fair amount of Yellowstone in 2 1/2 days. It was well worth the visit. Some how in my head I was expecting more spectular scenery but the geothermal features more than made up for that, because they were more stunning and interesting than I had anticipated. It was also quite an educational experience as well. But when you stood and looked out at the scenery- the blue Lake Yellowstone, the roar Falls, the bison and bears in the meadows, the dancing flowers spreading colour - it is easy to forget that all these geothermal features are due to the fact of supervolcano beneath you feet.
We stopped at the Visitors Centre - the lawn in front of which was littered by a herd of elk and various rangers were attempting to keep visitors at a safe distance which was no easy feat for them. We had a wander around the exhibits in the centre and watched the film they were showing, which was a good introduction to the national park, especially on the wildlife.We walked the short distance up to the Hot Springs. First sight was the Liberty Cap, a large stone pillar which was apparently caused by a once active hot spring, though it looks just like a bit of stone but took hundreds of years to be formed. Beyond this you leave the road onto wooden boardwalks that are raised above the fragile ground beneath. There are quite a few different terraces of springs. Some are formations left by once active springs that have since stopped, though could become active again. Other formations show the continuing work of the hot waters from the springs. The process of rock formation is started by the calcium carbonate in the limestone interacting with carbon dioxide that is dissolved in the hot spring water, making a weak acid, which is dissolved but then deposited again on the surface to form interesting shapes as the spring water flows. Canary Springs was still flowing, its name apparently due to thermophiles, which are microorganisms which love the hot water, the different colours are due to different thermophiles attracted to different temperature, with yellow thermophiles found in the hottest water. Walking down to Canary Springs you got to walk over on the boardwalk water running under the walkway - one could feel significant heat coming off it, though there were very clear warning signs to not touch the water. Equally throughout the site one could smell sulphur rising with the spring waters.I did start to walk around the upper terraces, but there are great distances involved and you have to share the lane with traffic, so I gave up.This was a fascinating place within the National Park, though not quite as exciting as the geysers elsewhere with their explosive power. It was more serene and calm. And unlike many of the other geothermal features, these somehow seemer tamer, and nearly make one forget that underlying Yellowstone is volcanic activity.To be honest we spent about an hour and a half here, which gave plenty of time to explore the main terraces, though more time would be needed to go up to the Upper Terraces. There are plenty of facilities here. There is a shop, a hotel and plenty of restrooms, though I didn't give much time to these as I was too busy enjoying the actual features we came to see. I'm not sure I'd like to stay in the hotel it seems there is so much hustle and bustle about it being so close to one of the entrances and car parks for the hot springs, so that all visitors must walk past the hotel.
by rufusni on November 5, 2012
This hadn't been our first choice but as we left West Yellowstone and then head down this dirt road we were starting to wonder what we were letting ourselves in for. The road was dusty and bumpy. And it kept going and going...through a patch of burned forest...we were still driving...and then we reached the campground.It is right beside the lake. We got our campsite right by the lake under pine trees. It was a rather dusty site. There was a good sink for washing up in the middle of the campsites which was very practical. The toilets were close to reception, but clean and pleasant. Lots of curtains on the showers for privacy - there are only 2 showers in the womens but we never had to wait and the water was hot. The owners have tried to make them homey with a few nice touches. There is also a laundry room with a good number of washers and dryers - and usefully a bench outside to sit and wait.But the pitch was amazing, you could hear the water lapping on the shore while we feel asleep. The sunset was incredible over the lake, as were the sunsets. The water was cold but was very refreshing when we came back from hiking in the national park and had a swim. We were disappointed before we arrived that we couldn't get a tent pitch in one of the campsites inside the national park. Then when we headed down that dirt track of a road, we thought we had made a big mistake. But this is now one of my favourite campsites. Its setting is beautiful. And it is quiet and serene being so far down that dirt road. Its away from the crowds that throng the National Park. I would stay here again. But bring insect repellant ...they'd eat you alive by the water!
We had planned to go to Tamarack, when we arrived we were told that they'd clear a table and we could have it in a few minutes. Unfortunetely someone else walked straight into the restaurant and sat down at the table, and ordered before the woman came back to get us. We were told then it would be at least 30 minutes until there was another table. At this point it was nearly nine, we were tired from a long drive from Seattle to Yellowstone, and just wanted something to eat at this stage. So on to plan B, which was the Flathead Brewing Company a bit of a stroll away.We nearly missed the entrance and ended up in the bar that is next door by mistake. We quickly realised that it was the wooden door and up a flight of stairs. Now, it was quiet and mellow the evening we were there. Nice airy surroundings. It was a nice place to chill.They had run out a few beers when we were there - one of our group was annoyed they had run out of wheat beer. But not being a beer drinking sort of girl, I ordered a cider. But the others seem to have enjoyed the beer. But Missoula is a abuzz with microbreweries. The food was fine. The menu might be best described as 'sandwichy' - nothing too substantial. Between us, the burger was a little ordinary, the flathead dip was a steak sandwich with a bowl of sauce seemed to be tasty, and I had a red pepper, artichoke hearts and goats cheese pita which was nice but didn't match the chips and salsa with which it was served (though the salsa was tasty). Given we were tired and hungry it was a reasonable choice...but I think I'd give somewhere else a try for a proper dinner...but it did have a nice ambience and I'd enjoy a few drinks here anytime.
We arrived after a long drive at 7.30pm and check-in was straight forward. There was plenty of car parking spaces outside. The lobby is quite small with a gift shop and a few computers with free internet access, (there was also WIFI) as well as a few comfy leather chairs. There was a good stand of lots of info booklets about the local area.First issue was that we presumed the lobby was floor 1, so when we when in room 220 we got into the lift and kept hitting the 2 button but we didn't move...only to realise our mistake. The room was the usual standardised fair you'd expect from a Holiday Inn. But I didn't like that when you walked across the floor it caused the stand and the cupboard under the TV to rattle. And then we had problems with the toilet, which overflowed. Now as soon as we phoned reception they sent someone to fix it and the floor was also cleaned and disinfected. But the handyman's comments lead us to believe that the hotel may have been updated in decoration but much of its underlying structures including the pipes are showing their age. And to be honest the toilet never flushed well when we were there. I got up in the morning and headed down to the pool. There was one clean dry towel left, and wet towels left on lots of the seats. It was a nice swim as I had the pool to myself at 5.45am. Swam a few lengths and then got into the whirlpool which was hot and relaxing especially given the lack of noisy kids, or the teenagers who had woken us up during the night talking loudly in the corridor and banging doors.Had a nice shower, and got my free coffee from the lobby. Breakfast had to be purchased, and didn't attract me, so I enjoyed a muesli bar from my own stash.Lets be honest its a Holiday Inn, it would have be stellar to seriously impress, but equally you know it shouldn't be terrible either - it will be okay and have hot water and a comfy bed. It is in a nice location, just a short walk to shops and restaurants in Missoula. It served as a good stop for the night.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009