Scott’s Big Adventure, Days Six and Seven: Inside Yellowstone

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River

Its weird. The town of West Yellowstone sits right on the boundary with the park. You just turn down a street and there’s the park entrance booth. It cost me $20 on a motorcycle to get in. The road into the central portion of the park follows the Madison River, which cleaves an opening in the mountain range that borders the park on the west.

I won’t try to describe everything that I did and saw, otherwise I’d be working on this entry all night. Instead I’ll just provide and outline of all the place and things. I took lots of video and snapshots, which I’ll post someday, I promise.

Update: Here are my Yellowstone photos on Flickr.

Update: Here are my Jackson Hole photos on Flickr.

I originally had thought that it would take me a day to get through the park and see everything important, and get out the southern end to Jackson Hole. Wrong. It took me two full days, and even at that, I felt like I was rushing through it. I also planned my route badly. There are certain sections of the park which don’t really contain anything unique, which could easily be skipped if you are in a hurry, but I didn’t realize that until it was too late.

As I said, I came in from the West Entrance along with a horde of other people. If this is the off-season, I’d hate to see what the crowds are like in the summer. At Madison Junction, most people turned south towards Old Faithful, so I went north. My plan was to travel the figure-8 (which you can easily see on any map of the park) by going east across the middle, north along the northeastern flank, back west over to Mammoth Hot Springs, south along the northwestern flank, back across the middle, then south along the southeastern flank, west and then north to Old Faithful, then backtrack to the Junction with the South Entrance road, then south to Grand Teton N.P., spending the night at Moose or Jackson.

That was the plan. But when I got to Mammoth, it was mid-afternoon, and I realized that there was no way I was going to make it all the way through. I decided to get a room at the Mammoth Hot Springs hotel, but all of their reasonably-priced rooms were gone. (Reasonable being $100 or less.) However, the Old Faithful Inn did have one such room left, so I booked it and headed straight south as quickly as possible.

Here’s what I saw on Day Six:

  • Gibbon Falls
  • Beryl Spring
  • Artists Paintpots
  • Steamboat Geyser
  • Tower Falls and Yellowstone River
  • Petrified Tree
  • Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces
  • North Entrance Gate
  • Norris Geyser Basin
  • 3 or 4 very small groups (as in 2-4 animals) of bison, plus a few individual bison here and there.
  • A herd of what appeared to be fairly young antelopes, grazing right next to the road.
  • A large herd of elk who were basically occupying the settlement of Mammoth Hot Springs.
  • A small herd of elk climbing the hillside next to the road near Beryl Spring on the second time past
  • Fly fishermen dipping a line in one of the many rivers and streams in the park.
  • And of course, countless breathtaking vistas.

On the segment from Madison Junction to Old Faithful, I skipped the attractions thinking that I would come back the next day and see them then. By the time I got to Old Faithful, which is actually a fairly large community with an actual exit off of the main park road, it was nearly dark.

The Old Faithful Inn is a huge log cabin that was build sometime around 1900. It’s a beautiful building and I highly recommend you visit it, if not spend the night there like I was about to. It turns out that the Inn has two sections: a modern wing around the back with “normal” hotel rooms, and the original wings to either side of the lobby. The rooms in the “traditional” wings don’t have bathrooms in them! Instead, there are communal men’s and women’s bathroom/shower-rooms in each wing. That’s why the rooms where so “reasonably” priced.

Inside my room was a wash basin, a bed and a couple of tables. The lights were designed to invoke the sense of candlelight. It had modern electrical and plumbing, but it felt very old-fashioned. The communal bathrooms were fine. They reminded me of the bathrooms in my college dorm, so it was no big deal.

The best thing about the place was that right across the hall from my room was another type of bathroom: A room with an old-fashioned cast-iron bathtub. So of course, the first thing I did after checking in was take a nice hot bath. As near as I can tell, nobody else used it while I was there. It probably freaked people out! But for me, it was one of the highlights of the trip so far, and completely unexpected since I never intended to stay there in the first place and I didn’t know anything about it or the rest of the Inn.

I mentioned on a Twitter post that there was no internet available anywhere in the park, wireless or hard-wired. But there was an espresso cart, so I had a cappuccino and sat in a nice leather chair on the 2nd floor of the lobby and just watched people go by. There is also a large outdoor terrace on the second floor. When I went outside, the clouds had dispersed and there was a beautiful view of the northern sky. I had forgotten what the stars looked like without all of the light pollution that comes with living in a big city. I saw the Milky Way with my own eyes for the first time in years. Awesome.

The morning of Day Seven, Old Faithful’s scheduled eruption was close at hand, so I showered then went out a strolled around the geyser fields. Even though Old Faithful is so famous, it is far from the most impressive of the geysers that are all right in the same vicinity.

After watching Old Faithful and checking out the rest of the geysers, I stuffed myself at the breakfast buffet, then packed and headed out for my 2nd day in the park. Here is the list:

  • Old Faithful, and other geysers in the area including Castle Geyser, and from a distance, Giant Geyser

  • Midway Geyser Basin

  • Upper and Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Artists Point

  • Fishing Bridge, which was quite ordinary and I have no idea why its listed so prominently on the maps

  • Yellowstone Lake from several vantage points

  • West Thumb and Grant Village

  • The Teton Range looking south from the north end of Jackson Lake. I’ve never seen a picture from this vantage point, but the view is awesome.

  • The young Snake River

  • The Teton Range from the usual angle(s). Do you know what Grand Teton means in French, the language of the Canadian fur trappers who named it?

  • Jenny Lodge and Jenny Lake, and the Tetons from very close range.

  • The village of Moose, Wyoming

  • Several large herds of bison in the southeastern portion of Yellowstone, including one herd who occupied the road for about 15 minutes.

  • Several very large herds of bison in Jackson Hole, but these were ranch-raised and behind fences.

  • A small herd of deer off in a meadow near Jenny Lake.

  • A couple of solitary coyotes, one out in a field and the other right next to the road, acting like a lost dog.

  • 5 decent-sized herds of elk, each about a dozen cows and a bull, appeared in various places around Jackson Hole right around dusk.

  • Lots of spectacular fall foliage.

Got into the town of Jackson just after dark. Had a bottle of Moose Drool brown ale, along with some bar food, and watched a couple of innings of the Red Sox at Angels playoff game. I packed six sets of underwear for the trip, along with the set that I am wearing. If you do the math, you find that today was laundry day. It cost $3.50 to wash and dry one load of clothes in the motel laundry room. Reminded me of college days.

So its just after midnight as I’m finishing this. As always, no time to edit together a video segment of today’s journey, nor to post pictures. I need to stop pushing so hard to cram as much as possible into each day. The bad weather arrived this evening, which is why I wanted to get the Yellowstone part of the Adventure behind me. Hopefully, the weather will improve as I move south, so I won’t feel compelled to go, go, go from dawn to dusk. And maybe that means I’ll have to do the videos and pictures that I promised everyone.

Tomorrow’s destination: Salt Lake City, about 250 miles distant. Catch ya tomorrow evening.

Oh, by the way, guess what I didn’t see any of in Yellowstone National Park: Bears! The place that was once famous for bears has done such a good job of securing the trash cans and dumpsters and telling tourists not to feed them, that they are now actually scarce. You see plenty of bear sign (i.e. poop and scratched-up trees), but no bears. Kind of disappointing.

One thought on “Scott’s Big Adventure, Days Six and Seven: Inside Yellowstone

  1. Hey Scott, regarding Fishing Bridge, when you get back home, pick up my new book about cutthroat trout and turn to page 289, 2nd paragraph. It was a “famed in song and fable” spot for anglers in the old days, popular enough that the crowds would hold up traffic for hours when the trout were running. Although fishing hasn’t been allowed there since 1970 or so, it still merits its own name on the map.

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