We woke up to crisp beautiful weather and distant snow-capped mountains in Sheridan, WY.
We've been on the road for a week now, and so far we are loving every minute. We spent the first part of the day in a Starbucks so Brannon could work, and I blogged a little and researched our next stops (Yellowstone and Grand Tetons) in between playing with Ember. I called Yellowstone and made reservations with them for the next two days, one campground on the south side of the park (Grant Village) so we could see the Tetons and Old Faithful, then the next campground on the north side of the park (Canyon), where we would stay on our way up to Glacier National Park.
From there we started to work our way to the Yellowstone/Grand Teton area through the Bighorn National Forest.
Drive Through the Bighorn National Forest
Poor Harvey, we have put him through the ringer on this trip so far! (And this is still just the beginning!) But his '84 engine is trucking along up those mountains just fine. We took it really easy - didn't want to push him too much. And we frequently pulled over to let others pass. The steep grades and curves through the Wyoming mountains turned the 3-hour drive into almost 6 hours.
The scenery through the Bighorn National Forest was beautiful. And we even saw a couple young moose and a beautiful deer by the road.
Shell Canyon/Shell Falls
We stopped at Shell Canyon and Shell Falls along the way, our first taste of breathtaking views.
We stayed the night in Cody, WY, at another Walmart (loving these free camping nights :) ), right outside Yellowstone National Park. Once again, we were in good company.
From Cody, WY, we drove a bit more through some beautiful scenery (Wyoming is full of it!) and through the Wapiti Valley.
One of our RoadTrippers bucket list items was the Smith Mansion (also called "the crazy house"), an old rickety crazy-looking log cabin-ish house that a guy built several years ago. He actually never finished it completely because he fell off a ladder as he was building it and died. (Sad! Read the whole story here.) It's not open to the public, but we pulled over to snap a couple pics.
Grand Teton National Park
We decided to go to Grand Teton National Park first (since it was south and we were traveling north next), so we passed through the Yellowstone National Park to get to the Grand Tetons.
We hiked an almost-3-mile trail at Colter Bay, and enjoyed the beautiful view of the Tetons behind the sparkling lake. I have to admit, after hearing so much about bear sightings and hearing warnings from others about what to do in a bear encounter, etc… I was a bit nervous to be hiking in the woods with not many people around! Your mindset changes completely when you have your baby with you. We kept making noise to alert/deter any that could be lingering close to the path, but we quickly realized that our backcountry hiking would be limited (by our choice) on this trip through bear country.
After we hiked at Grand Teton, we headed back up to Yellowstone.
Yellowstone National Park
We were finally there! We enjoyed the scenery as we slowly drove through the park. I knew Yellowstone was big, but I had no idea HOW big! I kind of felt like we were driving forever. And it seemed to contain so many different types of scenery and wildlife.
Camped at Grant Village
The first night, we camped at Grant Village Campground in Yellowstone, and realized just how cold the nights up there were going to be. There were no hookups there (as in most of the park, except one campground), so we had no electricity - which didn't bother us too much since we were used to staying in Walmart parking lots. We were set with our rechargeable lantern. Plus, we mainly just came back to shower and sleep, didn't spend much time at the actual campground. But because our propane tank wasn't working properly (oh yeah, we found that out a couple days before we left), we had no heat, and no way to cook anything inside. This hadn't been too much of an issue up to this point, but we had NO idea it would be 35 degrees at night! I mean, yes, it's north, but c'mon it's summer!! We were paying for our ignorance by being up most of the night, bundling together, and continually tucking our thin quilt snugly under our bodies, hoping to capture as much body heat as we could gather. We had Ember in between us so her body would be protected from the cold as much as possible, and we were up checking her body temperature frequently. So needless to say, it was a pretty sleepless night.
(Fun fact: They had "shower cards" - you were allowed two showers per paid night of camping. Which was fine because that's all we needed. But interesting nonetheless. I guess they probably had a lot of people using the showers and not paying for camping.)
Yellowstone Thermal Features
The first day in Yellowstone, we visited a lot of the "thermal features", like geysers, pools, and hot springs, and a lot of other terms that we hadn't heard of before, like fumaroles, mudpots, and bacteria mats.
Old Faithful Geyser
And we got to watch Old Faithful erupt, which was neat to see. (It's funny though, I was more fascinated by the other thermal features, probably because I had no expectations of them.)
Camped at Canyon Village
We saw so much wildlife throughout the park! TONS of bison, but also deer, black bear, grizzly bear, elk, moose, river otter,...and probably more that I'm not remembering at the moment. So neat to be in "their" territory.
The last day we were there, we got up early to go to Hayden Valley, which is supposed to be a great place to view wildlife (and they're especially active in the mornings and evenings). The valley was absolutely gorgeous. It took me back for a second. We had seen lots of amazing things on this trip so far, and for some reason, the beauty of this valley in the morning light took my breath away. Excitement built up in my lungs, and I felt fluttery. It felt magical.
We met another couple there who had a scope that they were looking into, and I commented that they came with the right equipment. She offered for me to look through their scope, and there was a mama grizzly and her two cubs! It was crazy - I had never seen a grizzly in real life before.
We drove down the road a bit more, and walked out on a path to see if we could see anything more. We thought we saw a black bear, but it was just another bison (haha, I wouldn't have said THAT a week ago...). Brannon had a good time yelling into the valley and hearing his voice echo back at him.
I don't know what this place was called, but we pulled over to a little parking area and looked out to see this...it was amazingly beautiful!
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
We drove back to the Canyon Village area, and hiked a bit in the "Grand Canyon of Yellowstone".
Lower Falls in the Yellowstone Grand Canyon
More bison, right next to the road...
This is one little happy camper! We had bundled her up for the previous night's sleep, and are now shedding her layers after our cool morning hike.
And that was our experience in Yellowstone. It was a beautiful and almost magical place, filled with God's creativity. We already can't wait to come back and visit again!
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