Wyoming – Days 1-3: One Park… Two Park… Wildlife… Geyser!

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My first day in Wyoming Robb took me to Yellowstone National Park. On the drive there he told me all about his job removing unnecessary fences so wildlife can roam free. He pointed out the different fences along the way and explained how they were bad or showed me the ones he had already  helped replace. That was pretty neat. Fences weren’t really something I’d ever thought of before.

He also corrected me when we saw our first herd of bison and I called them buffalo. He explained that buffalo are the genus from Africa, but that in America we have bison. I asked why the Kansas wildlife preserve said it had buffalo then. Robb, as a native Kansan, said I couldn’t expect much because it was Kansas, but that they were wrong. So, I hereby apologize for incorrectly using the term buffalo to describe the bison I saw in Kansas. However, I blame Kansas for the mistake.

Once we got to Yellowstone we stopped to see the hot springs and wandered around there for a bit. We also stopped to see a petrified tree, which I learned means it’s so old it’s turned to rock now. It was fenced off, so I couldn’t touch it, which was a bummer, but it was still cool looking. Though it kind of just looked like a tree, but I knew it was rock, so I guess that’s what made it cool?

Hot springs at Yellowstone National Park, WY.

Hot springs at Yellowstone National Park, WY.

As we drove around Yellowstone we saw a momma and baby black bear and another lone black bear. We also had some pronghorns come pretty close to us when we’d stopped to see them from a distance. Additionally, there were plenty of bison and elk around.

We hiked to a lake I didn’t catch the name of. The hike included trudging through swampy lowlands where I learned my shoes can’t really withstand marshy territory and my feet got soaked. By the time we made it up to the lake there was snow on the trail. Yes, snow. In May. I guess that’s the mountains. Apparently I’m never going to outrun winter this year… The view was gorgeous though.

The lake who's name shall remain a mystery, Yellowstone National Park, WY.

The lake who’s name shall remain a mystery, Yellowstone National Park, WY.

My first day in Wyoming was technically part of when I was in Montana, so fast forward a couple days through the rest of Montana to when I went back to Wyoming and Yellowstone again. This time I started at Old Faithful, because, well, it’s a thing. I’d been to Yellowstone when I was younger like 10 or so, but for some reason I think we might have missed Old Faithful. Either way, I don’t remember it, so I wanted to see it as an adult.

As I drove through the park I got stopped by a few herds of bison, but I tried to keep driving since I had no idea when Old Faithful was supposed to blow. I figured it’d be best to get to Old Faithful first and figure out when it would go off and plan the rest of the day around being able to see it. However, there was this one herd of bison that was directly across the river from the road I was on and it was a great photo opportunity, so I stopped. They seemed so far away across the river, then one got in the river and suddenly the river seemed tiny and we (all the tourists taking pictures from the other side of the river) seemed way too close. A second bison followed suit and before I knew it there was a line of bison crossing the river heading straight for the path I was on. Instinct told me to back away slowly and keep my distance. Apparently not everyone has this survival instinct, because more than one person got closer. Got. Closer. To the herd of bison approaching them. Wait, what?! Are they crazy?! Apparently. I couldn’t get back in my car fast enough, and felt much safer once I was.

Bison crossing the river and getting much too close for comfort, Yellowstone National Park, WY.

Bison crossing the river and getting much too close for comfort, Yellowstone National Park, WY.

I made it to Old Faithful and I kid you not, I couldn’t have had better timing if I tried. I literally got out of the car and walked up to Old Faithful and right as I approached the huge crowd already gathered around it started shooting water. Absolutely perfect timing. It was unreal. Old Faithful was cool, but I was more impressed by the crazy good timing I’d had – especially with all the bison roadblocks along the way. Unbelievable.

It was 3:30 p.m. and there were a ton of people around Old Faithful, so all my pictures had other people in them which I was a little bummed about. I figured maybe I could catch the spray again before I left since it goes off every ninety minutes or so. I didn’t have a host in Jackson, WY so I’d be sleeping in my car anyway and could thus stay in the park as long as I wanted.

After Old Faithful finished doing its thing I found a couple hikes on the park map that looked cool and set out to check them out. The first hike I attempted had signs saying it was closed due to bear activity in the area. The second hike I tried had signs saying it was closed due to bear activity in the area. The third hike also had signs saying it was closed due to bear activity in the area. What. The. Heck?! Where were all of these bears? Not that I wanted to see them up close…

Instead I decided to drive the main loop around Yellowstone and stop at some of the view points along the way and then slowly make my way back to Old Faithful for a chance at some people-less pictures.

I checked out the Mud Volcano area including Dragon’s Mouth and the Mud Volcano itself and it was there that I finally smelled sulfur. Up to that point I’d thought it was weird that I hadn’t smelled sulfur. When I’d been to Yellowstone as a kid I remember thinking it smelled bad all the time. Alas, perhaps younger me was just melodramatic. Go figure.

There were a lot of down trees around the Mud Volcano area and I wondered why. As if to answer my question I later found a sign that explained the trees. What happened is that a number of earthquakes caused the ground temperature to increase to 200°F! Yeah, so all the tree roots were roasted causing the trees to die and fall over. So sad. Poor trees.

Dear trees, I'm, sorry the ground got so hot...Yellowstone National Park, WY.

Dear trees, I’m, sorry the ground got so hot…Yellowstone National Park, WY.

Next I drove along North Rim Drive which follows the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Robb had mentioned the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone the first day we were in the park, but we hadn’t actually seen it. Whoa. It’s pretty freaking impressive.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park, WY.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park, WY.

I continued driving around the main loop of the park and wasn’t sure whether or not I’d made it back before Old Faithful went off again, but I figured I could at least try. I’m wondering if maybe I had Lucky Charms for breakfast because again, for the second time that day, I walked up and sat down at Old Faithful and it started shooting off. Crazy. Good. Timing! Like, what?! Seriously?! So. Awesome! Thankfully at 8 p.m. there were WAY less people around so I got much better pictures, one without lots of heads in them. Woo!

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, WY.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, WY.

As Old Faithful finished its thing again it was just the right kind of cloudy that I knew the sunset was going to be stellar. I’d passed a nice open area near the Midway Geyser Basin earlier and decided to head back that way to watch the sunset.

The sunset and surrounding scenery was so beautiful I started tearing up. Then I started thinking about how wonderful my life is and how fortunate I am to be living the life of my dreams and following my heart and I started crying, actual tears. Happy tears, but tears nonetheless. Tears of awe and amazement. Of wonderment and pure gratitude. I felt a little silly crying at a sunset, but sometimes the world is just amazing and we should embrace that shouldn’t we?

Jackson doesn’t have a Walmart, so I crashed in a hotel parking lot instead. I woke myself up in the morning convinced that the shaking of the car was because it was being towed. It wasn’t. It was just because I was parked close to the highway and morning traffic was picking up. Whomp. It was six in the morning and I figured I’d better not push my luck and continue loitering in the parking lot now that the sun was coming up. So I headed to Grand Teton National Park. I planned to take a nap once I got there since the Visitor Center probably wasn’t open yet. It wasn’t, so nap I did. I woke up shortly after the visitor center opened and went in to use the restroom and get a park map to plan my day.

There was a hike called Hidden Falls that I was really excited about because I love waterfalls. Once I got to the trailhead there was a sign saying access to Hidden Falls was closed for the year. What?! Why?? What was my luck lately with trails being closed?! Instead I went to the Swan Lake and Heron Pond loop in hopes of finally spotting a moose. I didn’t see a moose, but on the way there I did see a grizzly bear and her cub, which was pretty sweet.

I sat by Heron Pond and wrote some more postcards and then did my workout by Swan Lake. I think I ran into two other groups of people the whole time I was out. I love getting to be in nature alone. It’s the best.

Swan Lake, Grand Teton National Park, WY.

Swan Lake, Grand Teton National Park, WY.