Friday, September 11, 2020

Yellowstone National Park 2020 Report


Gosh, I haven't done a report post in so long. 2020 has not been the year for traveling lol, but I'm happy to finally be able to share my adventures with you all again. Yellowstone National Park has been on my must-see list since I saw got the World Explorer card in the mail (Anyone else remember those?). The bison, the geothermal activity, the mountains, the weather. All up my alley. With most of my plans for this year being canceled, I decided to spontaneously take a trip to this amazing place with my dear sister-cousin. Brace yourself for a long post!

Day 1/5:

I left bright and early for the airport. The train down, the airport itself, and the planes were well-sanitized and masks were required everywhere (The latter which was not good for my head since they give me headaches if I wear them for long periods of time. Does anyone else get headaches from masks?). The flight went smoothly to Utah and I got to see the infamous Salt Lake from the air! Our flight to West Yellowstone ... didn't exactly go as planned.

I dozed through most of my flight to Montana, but when the plane landed it wasn't in West Yellowstone, but Bozeman, a city two hours north of West Yellowstone. The pilot couldn't land the plane because there was too much cloud cover and he gave us a choice to try again to land and risk having to fly back to Salt Lake City or we could get off the plane. I chose to get off the plane and find a way to get to West Yellowstone. I did not want to be stuck at a five-hour drive south in Salt Lake City. So me, my cousin, and two other passengers that opted to get off too split an Uber to drive to West Yellowstone. Despite the throbbing headache I had from still having to wear a mask, it was a pretty drive through a Montana area of Yellowstone National Park to the small city of West Yellowstone. 

But I managed to get to the tiny airport that closes at seven (Yes, the airport was so small it has a closing time.), get my rental car, and finish the day with some amazing barbecue from Firehole Barbecue. The ribs were the best I've ever had!

Day 2/5:

Day one in the park was Canyon and Valley Day! Armed with tea and coffee, my cousin and I drove into the vast wilds of the park and were stunned by its beauty. At one point, we stopped the car and got out and teared up at the gorgeous nature around us. It felt too beautiful to be real. The sky. The wind. The green hills. Gosh so stunning.

We also pretty soon saw our first bison. If you want to see tons of bison go to Yellowstone lol. They're everywhere.

We took a brief pitstop at Beryl Spring, named after the blue color of the steaming pool. There is literally some kind of hot spring everywhere. You'll see steam in the distance from some fumarole or spring or geyser throughout the park. At first, we thought a field was on fire, but nope steam and the strong smells of sulfur.

We made it to Hayden Valley under the blue morning sky and walked into the field of sagebrush while dodging lots of buffalo dung to see a flock Canadian geese and a herd of bison in the distance. The air was cold and quiet, but so peaceful. We even saw some wolf dung which was kinda cool.

The next stop was the Mud Volcano area! This short boardwalk area featured so many different geothermal spectacles, including the Mud Volcano, Dragon's Mouth Spring, Sour Lake, and Churning Caldron. I love the names of all of these places. They felt straight out of a fantasy novel. Dragon's Mouth Spring literally sounded like a growling dragon and the steam pouring out of the cave alluded to fire breath smoke. 

After a brief lunch accompanied by ravens the size of chickens in Canyon Village, we headed to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The Yellowstone River with the Upper and Lower Falls ran through this brightly-colored canyon dotted with trees and rock formations. I loved the sound of the wind through the pines and the waterfalls in the distance and finding different shapes in the rocks. It was just amazing. <3

Day 3/5:

Day two was geyser and hot springs day! We drove through winding mountain roads up to the northern edge of Yellowstone to Mammoth Hot Springs. There was an alien landscape of lunar-like rocks and skeleton trees. I felt like I was somewhere in Star Trek as we walked through boardwalk around Mound Spring and Canary Springs. All of the hot water spilling over the mineral-sculpted rocks fascinated me.

Next, we drove down to the Upper Geyser Basin to see some geysers go off! Particularly to go see Grand Geyser. This geyser only goes off every 6-7 hours and goes off for a full ten minutes! Well ... the geyser was late so I ended up waiting for three hours to see it, but it was totally worth it! It spurted out like white fireworks 200 feet in the air! So amazing!

After Grand finished its eruption I took a look at some of the other geysers and pools like Castle Geyser and Scalloped Pool.

And I got to see the classic Old Faithful erupt! I had to see that! I was also eating delicious Maple Nut ice cream at the time

Our last big stop of the day was at Grand Prismatic Spring! There was so much steam it was almost like a sauna and it didn't have the stong sulphuric smell like the other springs we'd seen during the trip. The wind was cool yet it also brought the warmth of the steam. It was an amazing feeling. The waterfalls of roiling water from the Excelsior Geyser Crater were so cool!

Then the spring itself was just stunning. All of the colors and patterns are made from the various bacteria living in the spring. Even in the harshest climates, life finds a way.

Before leaving, we also stopped at two more pools. The reds and blues are so beautiful.

While leaving the park, we came across a herd of elk and I got to hear an elk buck bugle! It's a rare sound you can only hear during mating season. Though I didn't get a chance to record it, I'll remember the sound. <3

Then we finished the day with some delicious Mexican food at Taqueria Malverde!

Day 4/5:

On this day we visited Yellowstone Lake! This is the largest lake I’ve seen in my life at a whopping 136 miles! The sheer size and the blue of the lake’s surface were just stunning. I also love the black sand shores. Such an amazing place.

I ate lunch with that wonderful lake view and later sat on a rock jutting out in the lake and just enjoyed the peace and serenity of the sounds of the waves lapping at the shore, the wind in my hair, and the water as far as the eye could see. 

Next, we stopped at the West Thumb basin where we explored geothermal activity right next to the lake! It was so cool to see geyser cones jutting out of the lake with steam and bubbling water. 

The colors of Black Pool and Abyss Pool were amazing. Beautiful and dangerous. I now want to create fantasy creatures that can live in hot springs!

On the way back to West Yellowstone we inadvertently got really close to a herd of bison. They’re such huge creatures!

And we finished the day with some shopping and pizza at Wild West! Mine was called the Calamity Jane pizza. :D Ricotta, artichoke hearts, and garlic. So much yum!

Day 5/5:

Since our flight didn’t leave until the afternoon and we were less than ten minutes from the airport we swung by the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center and got to see a variety of animals! The two grizzlies we got to see were Sam and Spirit. Man, they are so huge in real life!

I loved the beautiful white wolves and the black wolf. Some young wolves even came right up to the glass! They were really cute! Nom nom.

The Discovery Center also had a variety of raptors, all rescued. I love bald eagles and how they were all named after veterans. 

There were also some reptiles and otters! I love how the otters kicked off the sides of the tanks like little kids. 

After that, we headed home. I didn’t get many pictures because we got in very very late, but it was a decent enough trip. 

Conclusion: Soul-replenishing is the best way I can describe this trip. I feel like I’ve been cooped up for most of the year and my wanderer’s heart has withered being confined, but having adventures in Wyoming and Montana brought life back into me. Though this year is still continuing to be generally suckish, I'm very grateful for that eye of the storm in this tumultuous time and that I could at least make one dream come true this year. <3

Were you able to take a summer vacation this year? What are some of your favorite national parks? How many states in the US have you been to?

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