Sunday, June 9, 2013

Wild West Part II: Yellowstone

DISCLAIMER: This blog posts contains an enormous amount of photos! And it is narrowed down! There were so many to choose from. So--if you are not interested in seeing an endless amount of scenic beauty-this blog post is not for you and you may click the red X at the upper right hand corner of your screen. : ) 

Okay-so after saying goodbye to Jackson Hole, Jeremie and I made the 55 mile drive to Yellowstone! This 55 mile drive took us about 6 hours. We stopped every 30 seconds to take in one amazing view after another!!! They were endless! (Several stops we made were still in the Grand Tetons, so for organizational purposes, I will keep those for Part III. )  We were SO excited to finally enter the park!

And here were some of the views along the way....

Our next stop was Old Faithful, and we arrived just in time-about 20 minutes before it erupted. (It erupts about every hour.) It was so amazing to see it in person! For a few minutes, it would just tease us, and spit out about 6 inches of the back of my mind I was thinking "now I came all this way for a bigger show than this..." Then all of sudden: there she blows!!!

Afterwards, Jeremie and I ate lunch in the Old Faithful Inn, which was a site in itself.  It was one of the first structures built in Yellowstone, in 1904. It was beautiful!

By the time we finished lunch, it was time for Old Faithful to do her thing again, so J and I went to the other side (the back side) to watch it.  J wanted to see the water draining out the back down the rocks. Well, the geyser started to blow and it blew directly at us! Old Faithful water all up in my face! So now we know why all the observation benches are on the other side!  It was still a fun time of course J was all smiles. 
Isn't he handsome?
As we were leaving Old Faithful, we noticed Buford the Buffalo* (we named all the animals) hanging out in the field, so of course we wanted a picture! When entering Yellowstone, we received a pamphlet with "cartoon" of a bison goring a person and warning visitors to stay at least 25 yards away from wildlife. It also stated that buffalo can sprint 3 times as fast as the average person can run. of course I wanted to be in the picture with Buford, but as I was posing I tripped backwards a little bit and probably into the "less than 25 yards away zone".  Jeremie about had a fit and fussed at me for not paying attention. Luckily, I did not get gored and we got our picture. (With J hanging on for dear life.) 

*Note: I refer to Buford as a Buffalo, BUT the fact is that they are really BISON. That's right-America culture has taught us wrong all this time. Buffalo actually do not have the famous hump and scientifically, there are only 2 types of buffalo species that only reside in Africa and Asia. So now you know. 

The next major stop was the Midway Geyser Basin, which is home to lots of beautiful hot springs.  And HOT springs they were. The wind would blow the steam off these things and fog up my glasses. It was amazing and a totally different environment than the rest of the park. Apparently, millions of years ago (?) a volcano erupted in the Yellowstone area, leaving all these unstable gases/chemicals, etc. In my terms, lots of pretty, bubbly ponds.

Right before we drove out of the park for the evening, we saw LOTS brake lights and people standing on the side of the road...and you know what that means..wildlife!!! Sure enough, there was a HERD of buffalo on both sides of the road...and lots of them had calves...SO CUTE!!! 

J caught this darling video....I can just hear the baby buffalo going "Whoo Hoo!!! Come on-who wants to play!!!"

And THEN, I got really luckily and happened to catch a shot of these two having a little disagreement....

After that, we called it a day and finally made our way to the One Horse Motel in West Yellowstone, Montana, which is right outside of the West Entrance. Our accommodations were let's say...bare essentials. It was no little log cabin on a creek, but it was clean and had a bed. 

We spent the next three days seeing all there was to see in the park. Yellowstone's roads are designed in a figure 8, so each day we would conquer a different part of the 8. So the next day, we grabbed McDonald's and hit the road to the top left portion of the 8. This area held lots more hot springs, a beautiful waterfall, and more amazing scenery. 

At the very northern part of the 8 was Mammoth Hot Springs, which is another incredible geological feature, and also home of an old Army fort. They have built a little village and hotel around it, so we ate another huge lunch and checked out the hot springs. (I must insert that because of the elevation, we were SO hungry and thirsty all the time!) The hot springs were indescribable. Pictures don't do justice, but I can try.....

One the drive back, J and I discovered yet another beautiful hidden waterfall. J decided that he was going to climb down the cliff hill to get a better picture. Although I though it was the worst idea he'd ever had, I said nothing. When I married this man, I quickly realized that when it comes to daring acts of stupidity bravery, there is no arguing with him. I've just always committed to being the faithful wife at the bottom (or top) of the hill waiting on him.  I think J got some good pics with his phone (I would not let perish with my good camera) but after he came back quite winded, I'm not sure how worth it the climb was.....
Hidden waterfall.

Winded hubby.
Faithful wife looking quite refreshed.
Driving through the park at twilight was one of my favorite times. Everything seemed so still and quiet and peaceful. God's amazing creation was on full display. One of the neatest things was a buffalo heard settling in a field for the evening. I felt like I was on the set of Dancing with Wolves. 

Just in case you were wondering, we had BBQ that night. The waitress had never heard of BBQ nachos, so we pretty much told her to make us some nachos and dump some pulled pork on it. This was a revelation for her. After seeing it, 3 people around us ordered it. We like to think we left a legacy in Montana. 

The next day was another McDonald's breakfast in the car and another Buford the Buffalo traffic jam that lasted about an hour.  These guys rule the road!

We headed to the right upper side of the 8 on this day, which was a completely different environment than the other side of the park. This area is called the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and it is very alpine-mountainy atmosphere with a canyon in the middle!  We also saw an elk (Ernie the Elk) with it's velvet horns! (We had been seeing lots of "lady" elks.) 

The canyon part of the park was by far one of of our favorites! The views were absolutely breathtaking with the waterfalls flowing down into the winding river....amazing.

One waterfall boasted a "300 step staircase leading to an unparalleled view at the bottom of the waterfall"......and for some reason this seemed fun to us. : )  As we approached the 300 steps, people that were coming off the trail literally looked like they were about to pass out. I'm not gonna lie-I was nervous-but with lots of encouragement and breaks to catch my breath, we made it, and it really was beautiful. 

After all the hiking, we definitely needed some calories, so we picked up a few groceries at the lodge store and had ourselves a picnic!

Since this area was particularly known for bears, J and I had a chat during our lunch about what we would do if approached by a bear. J claimed that he would grab his sandwich and run to the car. "No point in wasting a good sandwich." I couldn't believe my ears and told him that I am throwing my sandwich to the bear and running to the car. I believe that in a fight over a peanut butter-jelly sandwich, that a bear would certainly win. Another pamphlet we received upon arrival informed of us of what our reaction needs to be if approached by a bear. The unfortunate thing is that they are different per type of bear. For one, you are supposed to scream, shout, throw rocks...the other, you are supposed to play dead. (Sounds appropriate.) J had really been wanting to see a bear since we arrived in Yellowstone, and knowing in a state of panic I would never remember the appropriate response for each kind of bear, I prayed that morning that we would SAFELY see a bear. Well, what do ya we were packing up our lunch....we see TWO creeping by! They were a good distance away-so J grabbed the camera and actually caught a pic of one climbing up a tree!!!  Prayer answered!

The rest of the afternoon was filled with more beautiful scenery.....and guess what...another bear!!!

Prayers doubly answered!!!!
We topped off an amazing day with an amazing pizza and good nights sleep. BTW-we were in bed by usually 9:30 or 10:00 each night! We were so tired! Funny thing was that it stayed light there until about 9:30!

For our last day in Yellowstone, we completed the 8 by riding along the bottom right part. It was gorgeous because most of it borders Yellowstone Lake. 

We played in the snow on the way out.....

We were sad to leave Yellowstone....we have been talking about going for really couldn't believe that part of the trip was over. But we had a blast riding around the park--will be memories for a lifetime. AND we had a whole third part of our trip awaiting....and the view looked pretty promising.....

Stay tuned for Part III!!!! 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Wild West Part I

Well folks, nine hundred rental car miles and 1,048 pictures later, we have returned from our Wild West Adventure to Wyoming. There are no words or pictures good enough to describe how AMAZING this vacation was. But you bet your bittie I'm gonna try! For time purposes (on your part and mine) I'm gonna break the trip down into 3 parts. 

J and I have always talked about going to Yellowstone, so about a month and a half ago, we finally just said-what the heck-and we booked it! I was so excited that I started a countdown on our chalkboard from 47 days! So when we left for the airport at 5:00 a.m. last Wednesday, it looked like this (I didn't have the energy at 5:00 a.m. to change it to "0")

We landed in the smack middle of the Grand Teton mountains and walked through an archway of antlers to get into the airport. The airport has 9 gates, one baggage claim, and a two lane road to get in and out. This place was already meeting our "middle of nowhere" criteria.

We checked into our first destination, the Rustic Inn, where we had a DARLING little cabin at the foothill of the mountains with a stream running right in front of our little porch. It even had little tepees around the property.SO CUTE!

Jeremie and I were starving, so we freshened up and headed to a place called Local for supper. (Recommended by a local.) It was fantastic and quite possibly the best steak and potatoes I've ever had. Jackson Hole was the most DARLING little town with shops and restaurants around the town square with the famous elk antler arches.

We slept super late the next morning, so of course that called for a cowboy sized breakfast! We checked out The Bunnery (another local recommendation) and again ate ourselves silly. Hello.

Afterwards, while shopping around the square, J and I both purchased hats...J's was a normal one...but I finally got my own coontail Davie Crockett hat. I remember being a kid and always wanting one of my own...don't ask my why. So even though I will probably only wear it on Halloween, J was happy to fork out the $8 if it fulfilled this childhood dream of mine. The man is still making my dreams come true. 

J sporting his new hat...I think this bear chair made him feel like an Indian chief. 
Note, we are in the middle of the mountains and I had to wait 10 minutes for J to walk this "Labyrinth". He finally made it to the middle.
Later that day we hit up the Visitor's Center, like any good tourist. I'm glad we did, because a worker told us about a short drive we could take that afternoon that was off the beaten path. So we grabbed our map and hit the road!

This map became our bible for the next few days!
The views were breathtaking! On this drive we saw our first buffalo, moose, and the famous barn that you see in all the Grand Teton photos. It was down a dirt road that we probably never would have gone down. We had a great time and it just filled us with more anticipation for the rest of our trip!

These fences were everywhere....which was beautiful. They work well in the winter because they can pick them up and set them on the snow....and the fence goes back down to the ground as the snow melts!
This barn is on a dirt road called Mormon Row...gorgeous!

I LOVED the moose!!! They are so big in person! Their antlers were still in velvet, but so neat! 
The next morning we ate brunch at Dolce, which has 14 different types of gourmet grilled cheeses on their menu. So J and I shared a grilled cheese and their fresh handmade donuts that came with three different dipping sauces. Ya'll-if this place would ship these donuts- I would have them every day. They were heavenly. I am hungry just thinking about it right now. 

And that wraps up Jackson Hole! The next day we headed to Yellowstone, which will begin Part II of this trilogy! Stayed tuned. : )