Yellowstone National Park is almost joined onto the Grand Teton Park, so it was only a short drive north before we were there. We were shocked at how much snow was still around. The drive into the park was past snow which was often 6 ft deep! We both started getting a little worried at how we would manage to camp in the cold, but thankfully the campsite was at a different elevation and the snow had all melted there. (Although it was still incredibly cold at night.) Most of the roads leading into Yellowstone are closed for a lot of the year due to thick snow coverage. The drive into the park was magical though. To go from deserts to a winter wonderland is quite surreal. We drove past frozen lakes, miles and miles of snow and huge pine tree forests.
We spent about 4 days in Yellowstone, which had almost as much wildlife as Teton did. We had been told Yellowstone was a very touristy park, and so we expected it to be as busy as the Grand Canyon. I think it probably is in the summer, but thankfully while we were there it wasn't too busy really. There are no shuttle buses like there are at the Grand Canyon and Zion, so we were able to drive around freely and stop for as long as we liked at the various lookouts. Yellowstone is a vast park. We could have spent weeks there and still not seen everything. But we got a good feel for the place in our few days. It is full of forest land, and more wild bison than I've seen anywhere else. Dan was hopeful of seeing some bears and so we spent the entire time on the lookout for either black bears or grizzlies. We had heard that Yellowstone was the place to see them, although they remained illusive to us for quite some time.
Obviously, one of the main features of Yellowstone is that its a park inside an active volcano. The volcanic activity there was obvious to see. Naturally we stopped to watch Old Faithful, the geyser, erupt - which to be honest, we all found a bit of an anti-climax. Especially young Barney who said "is that it?" loud enough for most of the gathering crowd to hear. We drove around the park and stopped at many of the volcanic areas. Our first stop was at a set of bubbling volcanic pools, with water so clear, pure and inviting, that we all felt an urge to jump into them. However, doing so would have meant certain death, so we refrained. Jimmie noticed a boiled lizard floating around one of the pools! These pools had no smell to them, they just bubbled, steamed and popped. It looked like the surface of another planet. Later on we found more of these pools that were sulphur based, and they absolutely wreaked of rotten eggs! Disgusting! One of the pools was bright yellow from the sulphur. We also saw some mud volcanoes, which were basically big pools of bubbling, squirting runny mud. The kids enjoyed this part of the park, and learnt about volcanoes on their way around. The Yellowstone Junior Ranger program was the most challenging so far and really required their best effort.
The waterfalls and canyons in the park were beautiful places. As usual the photos really don't do them justice. After three days Dan still wanted to see a bear, and he was beginning to wind me up groaning about bear hunting all the time. We had already seen a lot of wildlife including this coyote, and this strange looking bird.
But Dan wouldn't be satisfied until he saw a real live wild bear. We even saw bald eagles in their nests with their newly hatched babies.
But eventually Dan got his wish and we noticed a crowd of people had pulled over to look down into a meadow. We stopped the RV and discovered three big black bears wandering around below. It was an exciting moment. We both wished we had a camera with a proper zoom lens to get some good photos at this point. We did get a few photos which you can see here, but we just enjoyed watching them for half an hour. Its so much more exciting to see animals in the wild than it is in a zoo.
Dan was happy that he'd seen a bear, and I was happy that he was happy. But on our last night at Yellowstone on the way back to our camp site we were lucky enough to see a mother Grizzly Bear with her cub, quite near our RV. She was huge and impressive, and the cub was playful and gorgeous. They looked so harmless, even though they could rip us apart in seconds! The grizzly was trying to get down to the road with her cub to cross over into the grasslands. She had to wait until night time as a bit of a crowd had gathered, but we saw the next day that she had made it across safely. I can't tell you the excitement we all felt at seeing the grizzly bears in their natural habitat so closely. We also saw a mother black bear with two cubs playing in the trees. So we've truly seen the bears now. We left the park feeling satisfied and now we are on the final leg of our trip. The home run. Across Idaho and Oregon into California.
The rest of the photos from Yellowstone can be seen here. Don't forget to read the post below about Grand Teton, if you have missed it.