Old Faithful & the Grand Tetons (Day 15)

The next day dawned rainy and dismal. We’d had a better night’s sleep than the night before, but our moods were dampened by the cold rain. We had planned another day exploring Yellowstone, but wouldn’t be returning to that campground, so we were forced to pack up our tent and other gear while it was still soaking wet. For the first time in our trip, it felt like our enthusiasm was flagging; Ryan was fighting a head cold after our chilly night, and the gloomy day was definitely affecting both our moods.

We had just two stops planned for the day: Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful. Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world, but I was mostly interested in it because of the beautiful rainbow of colors it displays.

Well, I was in for a disappointment; it was about 45 degrees out and the warm water (160 degrees) meeting the cool air left the springs clouded in steam.



Next stop: Old Faithful — and our timing couldn’t have been better. It erupts every 35 to 125 minutes, and we weren’t excited about the possibility of waiting in the rain, but it went off just 2 or 3 minutes after we arrived. Maybe it was the dreary day affecting our mood, but we just weren’t that impressed.


Directly south of Yellowstone National Park is Grand Teton National Park — directly between us and our next stopping point in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. By the time we arrived at the border of Grand Teton, the unpleasant weather was beginning to evaporate and we were treated to some tremendous views of the incredible Teton mountain range.

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You might be able to tell that by this point we were kind of ready for a break from camping. Hotels in Jackson Hole were, as we expected, pretty pricey. So instead we reserved a “kamping kabin” at the Jackson Hole / Snake River KOA. This one-room cabin had a double bed and a pair of bunk beds — and Ryan even scored us a cabin with an amazing riverfront view!

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After cooking dinner at our campground, we headed into town to check out Jackson Hole — a charming, upscale town nestled in the base of the mountains. We enjoyed homemade ice cream at Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream, spent some time browsing the local bookstore, and wandered in and out of the shops. I can only imagine how cozy the town would be in the winter when the resort ski season begins!

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Exploring Yellowstone (Day 14)

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.

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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!

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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.

The elk were very pretty though.
The elk were very pretty though.

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.

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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!)

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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.

A Long Drive to Yellowstone (Day 13)

Today was another big driving day and our first sight of Yellowstone National Park!

Good old Google Maps estimated our drive from Buffalo, Wyoming to the Yellowstone Park / West Entrance KOA at about 6.5 hours, but it ended up taking us much longer. Our first detour was a longer-than-planned stop at the very nice Walmart in Cody, Wyoming, not far from the eastern edge of the park. Knowing we’d be far from civilization for a while (and that shopping opportunities we’d have would reflect tourist prices), we took the opportunity to restock our coolers for the next few days.

Just a few miles up the road, the awe-inspiring views at the Buffalo Bill Dam and Reservoir necessitated another stop.


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Our next stop was for a quick splash in the chilly rivers of the North Fork Shoshone River.

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Well, Ryan splashed. I did not.

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It was a pretty exciting moment when we entered Yellowstone National Park for the first time. We’d altered our route so that instead of going the fastest way (up into Montana, skirting the park) we would be traveling straight through the park to our campground at the west entrance. Because of all the stops we made, we were getting a little worried we wouldn’t get to our campground in time to set up the tent before dark, but the breathtaking views in Yellowstone soon distracted us.

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It’s a little over 80 miles from Yellowstone’s East Entrance to the West Entrance, and we quickly learned that traffic through the park moves slowwwwwwly. The maximum speed limit is 45 mph, and there are so many campers and RVs, it often moves even more slowly. And whenever an animal is spotted, traffic quickly slows to a crawl. At one point, it came to a complete stop because there was a herd of buffalo in the road! That was so cool, we didn’t even care.

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We made it to the campground with about 30 minutes to set up our tent before dark, and were pleased with our decision to reserve a spot in the “tent village.” This was a hexagonal arrangement, with the “spokes” offering each of six camp sites fencing on the sides, and a small covered patio with counter top and storage. It was cool and windy and we were grateful for the site’s electric light and buffer from the wind.

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