We have an admission to make. Jacqui’s new job was not the reason we moved to Utah. We moved so we could blog about all of the fantastic National Parks in the Inter-mountain West (and fill up Sprout’s National Parks Passport). Almost as soon as we arrived in Utah we reserved a campsite at Madison campground for Labor Day weekend. Camping in Yellowstone has been a dream of ours for many years now.
Preparing for this excursion was more complex than the days when we would just throw our gear in the bags and go on a whim. Sprout has never camped more than a single night, nor have we camped in Grizzly territory before. Furthermore, the forecast became more ominous as the day of our trip approached, with a chance of thunder, followed by snow showers and sub-freezing temps.
We left Logan shortly after 4pm, dined at a weird quasi-Mexican bar/Restaurant in Pocatello, Idaho around 6pm, hit one last gas station in Idaho Falls around 7pm, and arrived at the West Yellowstone entrance around 10pm. There were no lines, but the occasional flash of lightning and fat, falling raindrops as we entered. The traffic appeared to be flowing in the opposite direction, and we wondered if we would repeat of our Canyonlands crisis in Yellowstone. Our plan, was to leave the back of our Volvo station wagon empty in case we needed to jump ship in the night (and by ship we mean tent) to have a more comfortable car sleeping arrangement than the last time. We were comforted to see that Madison campground was full for the night, so at least if we were crazy, we weren’t alone. Having arrived after quiet hours, we pitched our pristine, new tent in the dark and quickly went to sleep, half-expecting to awake shortly to thunder and hail, but fortunately, the storms missed us.
Sprout, enthusiastic and/or terrified to wake up in a tent, decided we were going to have an early start to our day and by early we mean 5:15 a.m. She was intent on singing baby good morning songs (at the top of her lungs) until we decided to hop in the car to avoid disturbing our neighbors with her serenade (the camp sites were very close together). Shortly after starting the car, she zonked out again. This gave the two of us plenty of time to take a leisurely 16 mile drive to Old Faithful as the sun was rising. Along the way we made may stops to see the geyser basins along the Firehole River.
We beat the crowds to Old Faithful, and Sprout enjoyed her breakfast of yogurt and pomegranate as Old Faithful erupted. She was more interested in the birds flying overhead, although I ventured into the viewing area to capture some pictures
After pestering some rangers about what is best to see in a limited time, we walked the boardwalk over the Lower Geyser Basin where we were able to see many geysers — big and small — fumaroles, and hot springs. Sprout was astounded by the thermal features, as were we. She was so excited to be in Yellowstone, she would not stop growling like a bear through the whole walk. Perhaps we promised too much when we told her that Yellowstone was a popular bear habitat.
The last stretch of the boardwalk trail was paved, flat, and free of flowing sulfuric acid, so we let Sprout try some hiking on her own two legs. As we approached the Yellowstone Hotel we were greeted by a yelling Park Ranger who pointed out the buffalo hanging out in the tall grass alongside our path (between us and the ranger). As we prepared for the trip we heard numerous horror stories of unruly buffalo, including one youtube video of a buffalo launching some Yellowstone visitors into the air. Consequently, we circumnavigated the buffalo quite generously on our way back to the car, but took one shot as we walked away.
Yellowstone Lake and Canyon were breathtaking. Sprout missed most of it, though she woke in time for a short, but steep hike to the brink of the Lower Falls, where water of the Yellowstone River crashes 300 ft over the canyon wall. We ate lunch in the car (PB&J) and G was delirious from exhaustion (and possibly the sulfuric gases) so we decided to go on a long drive towards Yellowstone Lake and Canyon. We were not expecting to recross the Continental Divide two more times on the drive, but it led to an interesting discussion about how many times we have crossed the Continental Divide this summer (8 times for Aaron, and 7 times for Jacqui).
We arrived back in our campsite well before the sun went down, although the temperature was already in the 40s and dropping swiftly. We bundled up and reheated our pork (which we cooked and froze before we left Logan) and beans over a small fire, trying to stay warm in the evening sun. We were impressed with the facilities at the campsite. Very rarely does one find a clean men’s room, let alone at a campground (Aaron was very impressed). Jacqui did not explore the men’s room, but adds that the women’s restrooms were also very well maintained. There was even a dish sink — not in the women’s room, though.
We bundled Sprout for bed in long wool undies, wool socks, fleece footy pajamas, and a snowsuit. She refused the hat and mittens, but we were hoping to sneak them on her after she fell asleep. Of course we had our trusty mummy bags that have worked well in the past in sub-freezing temperatures, so we were not worried about us. Aaron was checking on Sprout every hour, trying to keep her in her mittens and under a big heavy blanket (she does not normally sleep with blankets). At 1am we gave up, and Sprout snuggled with her Mama the rest of the night to keep warm. Of course, this prevented me from being fully immersed in my mummy bag, so I was chilly and did not sleep as well as I’d have liked.