We woke up the next morning undeterred by a terrible night’s sleep. The KOA encouraged late check-ins, and we had neighbors in the tent village arrive at around midnight and make all kinds of racket setting up their site. In addition, the temperatures plummeted in the night, dropping to around 24 degrees — definitely at the low end of what our gear was rated for.
But we were excited to see Yellowstone and fortified ourselves with a big breakfast. (Another plus of the tent village: the counter area, which allowed me to easily set up and plug in my griddle to make bacon and eggs! Truly luxurious camping!)
Our main destination for the day was Mammoth Hot Springs, but with the whole day ahead of us we were ready to see as many sights as possible. We knew from our previous day’s drive that it would be a real challenge not to stop every five minutes to take pictures of the beautiful views!
Our first stop was at Gibbon Falls, a beautiful waterfall with a drop of about 84 feet.
Next detour: the Artist Paint Pots. We primarily stopped because we were intrigued by the name, and learned it was a short hike through a small geothermal basin. The hot water bubbled up through multicolored clay, making it look for all the world like an artist’s palette!
We saw more buffalo, elk, and pronghorns as we drove through the park, but a new exciting wildlife moment was when we spotted a black bear and her roly-poly cub! The bear herself was so small, we thought she might be a baby until we saw the cub tucked in the underbrush beside a log. Sadly, my hopes of seeing a grizzly bear (a very far away grizzly bear) never materialized.
Next we made a stop at Mammoth Hot Springs, a large complex of hot springs on a hill of travertine. Thermal activity here has created a series of terraces that the warm bubbling water flows over. The hot springs were interesting to look at, but they smelled terrible! They reminded me of a very dirty version of the lovely hot springs in Pamukkale, Turkey.
Our final stop — the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone — proved to be one of the most beautiful wonders we’d see that day. We hiked from out to a point overlooking the canyon from up high, then hiked down to an overlook just above the lower falls. (Our glutes were feeling that burn for days!)
Our day of exploring Yellowstone had worn us both out, so we returned to the campground ready for a quiet evening relaxing and reading by the fire. We had seen much of the northern part of the park; we planned to see the park’s southern sights the next day.