Day 2 – Yellowstone National Park
Megan and I woke up around 7:00 am (30 minutes earlier than Mom and Dad decided to wake up) so that we could attempt to find a Geocache that was supposedly .3 miles away. It ended up being a mile each way, but the walking felt good in the brisk air—especially after riding in the car all day yesterday.
We followed our iPhone GPS’ to the Natural Pier. Engineers incorporated a rocky outcrop in the Clark Fork River into their bridge as a center support. The bridge was once part of the Yellowstone Trail that traversed Montana from Lookout Pass to the South Dakota border in southeastern Montana. We searched and searched, but our phone service diminished the closer we got to the water, and we couldn’t find it based on the description and hints. After running across several snake skins and some squawks from the falcon nest above us, we decided we better head back. Even though we didn’t find the cache, we were glad to have attempted. Half the fun is seeing where they take you, anyway!
View of the Natural Pier From Our Coordinates
After returning to the campsite, we worked together on packing up the camper so we could hit the road. Luckily it is about a 30-45 minute process, not too bad. Definitely more ideal to get set up and stay awhile, however. Oh well, that’s not how this trip is going to go.
Megan and I Sleep in the Fold Out (and There’s Dad!)
We set off to Missoula where we pulled off at the first sighting of a Starbucks. I had finished my book, so I picked up Hunger Games at Walmart. Not nearly as depressing as what I just finished reading. We continued on our way, passing through Butte and spotting “Our Lady of the Rockies” looking over the city. The statue was built by volunteers using donated materials to honor women everywhere, especially mothers. At 90 feet, it is the second tallest statue in America next to the Statue of Liberty. Who knew?
“Our Lady of the Rockies” From the Road
Closer Photo of the Statue (not my photo)
Closely after we crossed the continental divide. Nothing earth-shattering happens when you do, but it is pretty awesome to say you’ve crossed it!
We entered Yellowstone at about 4:30 pm from the West Entrance, even though we meant to come in from the North. Surprise! We decided to still head toward Mammoth Hot Springs as we had planned. I’m glad we came in from the west, however, as we stopped by Gibbon Falls, and then Norris Geyser Basin.
The Norris Basin is on the edge of the giant Yellowstone Volcano—the largest super volcano in the world. Much of the park’s present appearance can be traced to one of the largest volcanic explosions in earth’s history, roughly 600,000 years ago. A body of partially molten rock still exists close to the earth’s surface in Yellowstone, making it one of the most geothermal places on earth. In many places we will see geysers, bubbling mud pots, hot springs, paint pots, and steam releasing from cracks in the earth. It is pretty amazing that we can visit these places (relatively!) safely. This sign was enough to keep me from wandering!
We were able to walk among some of these amazing features via foot bridge!
Porcelain Basin from Above
You can smell the sulfur as soon as you get out of your car near the area. However, even when you are up close, the smell isn’t too bothersome. It’s probably because you don’t care when you are observing these amazing colored minerals in steaming pools bubbling up from under your feet. It feels like you are on a different planet. Or on a volcano—which is accurate.
How it Works
It was getting late, so we decided to head up to Mammoth Hot Springs to see if we could get a spot at a campsite somewhere in between where we were and the edge of the park. Every campsite was full, and so we ended up driving out the North Entrance to find a space. However, in Yellowstone, frustration with not finding something right away always leads to something awesome that you are glad you didn’t miss. We pulled up as a bison crossed the road right in front of the car in front of us! He was so close! I got a great video and some pictures of our first exciting wildlife spotting.
We continued on over the 45th Parallel, we crossed through the Roosevelt Arch into the little town of Gardener. It was a cute place, filled with rafting shops (as it sat over the Yellowstone River), old western restaurants and bars, and authentic buildings. It was perfect, though, because the RV Park was pretty modern. We drove up and luckily there was one space left! It had full hook-ups, and even wireless internet and cable. I took advantage of the internet while Dad barbecued up some burgers for dinner.
The burgers were delicious after a long day of driving and exploration. We played a few games of Yahtzee after that, and it seems like all my luck transferred to Mom (suspiciously using the pen I used last night), as she got four Yahtzees in one game! That’s just crazy.
We decided to set our alarms for early in the morning so we could spend most of the day checking out the park. Megan and I set ours an hour early so we would have to find a nearby cache, hoping we can finally get the Montana souvenir!