Yellowstone National Park
"A thousand Yellowstone wonders are calling, 'look up and down and round about you!'"
We got up bright and early Thursday morning to drive from Jackson Hole to Yellowstone. We only had one emergency pee stop and made really good time into the park. If you've never been to Yellowstone before, it's difficult to explain how it feels, but the best I've been able to come up with is "otherworldly." Nothing feels like it should exist on earth (and let alone only a 10 hour drive from where I live...) and its majestical and fantastical and beautiful and overwhelming all in one.
Our first real stop was at the southern entrance ranger station so we could figure out when Old Faithful was predicted to erupt again - rangers can predict times with a 10 minute buffer either way - we only had about 20 minutes to get there! We were nervous it was going to erupt before we could park and our entire group could walk to the viewing platforms. But with the Julie Baker parking mojo we found spots and were on our way
Usually I get stressed and frustrated when I'm in a huge crowd of people, but Old Faithful was an exception. We had no trouble finding a spot to view the geyser, the boardwalks are constructed so no one was causing any harm to the environment, and the timing was spot on!
There's a lodge and a gift shop area right next to Old Faithful (which personally I think is really cool - I'd love to look out of my window at 2am and watch Old Faithful blow!) where we all bought things and then Grandma was able to sit and relax as the rest of us wandered around the boardwalks. There's a bunch of other geysers and hot springs right in the area, so we wanted to walk around and see as much as we could.
From Old Faithful we started driving north on the lower loop. Our plan was just to do the lower loop and see as much as possible of that section (so we saw less than half of the park). Everywhere we stopped was something new and even more colorful than the last stop.
My favorite part of the day was going to Grand Prismatic Springs. It's absolutely gorgeous and any pictures can't do it justice at all. This was also probably the most crowded part of the day, but I just waited patiently for my turn to look/take pictures/stare in awe.
After Grand Prismatic we got separated and there is no cell service in the park so we didn't know where the other car was. It took us over 30 minutes to find them so we could have our picnic lunch.
Pro tip: if you're going into a national park with two separate cars, take walkie talkies. Most parks don't have any cell service and getting separated is bound to happen, especially if you go in the crowded summer months.
After driving half of the loop and visiting yet another ranger station (and having to report stupid tourists that were entirely too close to some bison), we made it to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Sam and Aunt Suzi were our navigators and led us to some amazing viewpoints of Upper and Lower Falls.
We went on a short walk to the brink of the Upper Falls, where there was a bison next to the bathrooms and a rainbow in the mist.
After the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone we were all pretty tired and hungry. We still had 1/4 of the loop left to do and we had eaten a lot of the food we had packed. We were making a beeline for the first ranger station we stopped at when we found a field of bison and elk!
Overall Yellowstone was incredible. I can't wait to go back (and take Logan this time), but I think we need more than one day there - even if that day was 18 hours long. If you ever have an opportunity to explore Yellowstone, take it.