Having covered the miles easily over the previous few days we had estimated an easy 3 or 4 hour trip to Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately it took us the whole day to get there due to the winding hills and steep gradient of the roads. But it wasn’t all that bad; the scenery was just stunning and the best we had seen yet. The lush crops turned into barren fields and then complete desert with table-top rocky mountains formed billions of years ago. The drive into Yellowstone itself was magical, crisp blue lakes and sheer cliffs covered in Ponderosa Pine. This is the scenery we had imagined and we were rewarded on a very pleasant 35 degree day.
Yellowstone National Park; established in 1872 and the world’s first national park, covers an area of around 9000 km2 (over 2 million acres). It is located mainly in the state of Wyoming, but also extends to Montana and Idaho.
We settled into our camp ground on the east side of the Park and were provided with a list of very strict instructions about food handling and storage in order to prevent attracting bears. Oh so tempting to leave the roast chicken out for the night just to get a glance at a grizzly, but of course we didn’t. After dinner we set off on another evening drive to see what wildlife we could spot. It is easy to tell where the action is at, as cars are pulled to the side of the road and people are scrambling to get that perfect photo.
Within a minute of driving we came across some female elk with their young crossing the road. These are far bigger than any deer we see at home and were rather beautiful. We also spotted some males enjoying the last of the evening sun.
As we continued driving we soon spotted three coyote in the distance playing in the long grass, along with more bison, elk, and a rattle snake.
But the highlight of the evening (or perhaps the entire trip thus far!) was a grizzly bear playing with her three young cubs in the evening light. We could easily see them from the road with the naked eye. It was just magic and we were buzzing for some time. Talking to other people we realised how fortunate we had been to see this much wildlife in one evening.
Waking early the next morning to a very refreshing 6 degrees, we packed up and headed to the Old Faithful Geyser. Spurting boiling water 50 metres into the air - the geyser wasn’t as impressive as we had expected but we are spoilt with similar attractions in NZ.
What was more impressive was the accuracy for which her eruptions can be predicted; plus or minus ten minutes, hence the name. We then enjoyed a coffee on the balcony of the beautiful Old Faithful Inn; opened in 1904 this beautiful hotel is one of the largest log buildings in the world.
We then headed north in the Park and checked out some thermal pools and more geyser action on the way to the Mammoth Hot Springs. These colourful calcium carbonate terraces were quite pretty and the smell was incredibly Rotorua-like.
Our trip to Yellowstone had definitely been jammed packed. Although we could have had more time in the Park, we felt we covered off most of the key attractions, leaving the canyon and falls to see some other time. As the temperatures began to drop and the thunder clouds rolled in we headed to a small town located west of West Yellowstone to visit our friends Mojo and Alicia.