On Monday, May 5th, we rose early to spend an entire day exploring Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone is the world's first national park, established in 1872. It encompasses 3468 square miles and is well-known for its geothermal features, wild wolves, and grizzly bears. (That's why we stopped off at Walmart for bear spray before we went to the park!) Yellowstone is also the world's largest concentration of geothermal features, including Old Faithful.
We rose early in order to get a full day in the park. Since we were staying in Cody, Wyoming, we had a full hour drive just to reach the east entrance of the park, which had been opened for the season only three days prior to our arrival. The snow was still very deep - higher than our car in some places!
Once we entered the east gate, we drove through a daunting avalanche area in the Sylvan Pass, saw a lot of buffalo warming themselves near natural steam vents (fumeroles), then stopped at an overlook to view Yellowstone Lake before continuing onto the "Fishing Bridge" area of the park. From there, we had to turn north because the southbound road was still closed for snow removal.
On the way northward toward the "Canyon Village" area, the road followed the Yellowstone River for a while. It was along this road that we noticed a group of cars pulled over. We soon learned that everyone was watching grizzly bears across the other side of the river! We sat and watched two bears feeding on a carcass for a little while before continuing on our way. We kept the bears at a safe distance from ourselves; as a result, we unfortunately didn't get any pictures that were close enough for detail.
We actually had the opportunity to see four bears along this road. The first viewing was far off in the distance, and a stranger allowed us to use his binoculars to see it before it wandered off into the woods. Then we saw the two by the river, as mentioned above. Lastly, we saw one more wandering somewhat closely along the road. A huge crowd of cars was pulled over to view it as it lumbered along eating. However, in all situations, we didn't get great pictures of the bears because we kept a safe distance away. The bears were just coming out of winter hibernation, and they were hungry! We'd rather they didn't munch on us!
As we continued on our way to the Canyon Village, we also stopped to see the "mud volcano" and the "sulphur caldron". I don't think the younger kids were too impressed with those, because they smelled strongly of sulfur!
Before arriving in Canyon Village, we took an open side road and were pleasantly surprised by what we found. We saw a stunning view of a canyon with a waterfall. It was absolutely gorgeous!
We arrived in Canyon Village and stopped at the visitor center to pick up junior ranger books and get the national passport books stamped. Then we turned onto another road leading westbound toward "Norris". We didn't stop to see anything in particular along this road, but we did see a lot of beautiful scenery.
From Norris we turned southward and made the drive to see "Old Faithful". Old Faithful is the most famous of the geysers in this area, but there are many geysers, hot springs, and fumeroles (aka, steam vents) in the area. Old Faithful gets its name because it is the most predictable geyser. It shoots boiling water through the crust of the earth once every 65-90 minutes, for about 2-5 minutes each time. The ground rumbles as it starts to erupt; it is quite an impressive force of nature!
After we watched Old Faithful erupt, we went into the visitor center to get the junior ranger badges, then headed back up the road on which we arrived. This time, however, we stopped along the way to see the many geothermal features.
Our first stop was the Black Sand Basin which had some colorful hot springs and geysers to see.
Next we stopped at the Biscuit Basin for more hot springs and geysers. There are so many to see!
We also went to the Midway Geyser Basin and saw a geyser that had blown itself out, as well as see the Grand Prismatic Geyser which has many colors in its water. Unfortunately, due to the air temperature, the steam was so thick that it was hard for us to see inside the geysers.
We continued our drive and stopped a few more places to see more hot springs and geysers before taking a different road to the north end of the park. Once we arrived back in Norris, we took the road straight north to the Mammoth Hot Springs area of the park. Along the way we were stopped for road construction, but soon we arrived to the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. We got out of the car and took a few pictures, plus we saw more elk and buffalo in the area.
We drove through Mammoth Hot Springs to the north entrance of the park to see the famous "Roosevelt Arch".
At this point, we considered driving east to the Tower-Roosevelt area of the park, but dusk was setting in and we had a long drive to not only get out of the park but also get all the way back to Cody.
The drive to get from the north entrance of the park back to the east entrance took about an hour and a half! By the time we exited the park, darkness fell over the park. We had hoped to see some wild wolves before we left, but we had no such luck.
We left the park around 9:00 at night, and by the time we arrived back to our campground in Cody, it was 10:30. We immediately hit the hay and rested soundly after our full day at Yellowstone National Park.