Feb 13

Yellowstone – Yellowstone Falls and West Thumb

Moving past the less attractive sites of Mud Volcano and Mammoth Hot Springs to some of the nicest spots in Yellowstone today I’ll talk about Yellowstone Falls and West Thumb.

Yellowstone Falls are beautiful, my picture of them even made it my bathroom.  Yes, that is actually a compliment, it was not easy to find the perfect picture that was serene, beautiful and the right colors to hang in my bathroom.  At the falls there is an overlook/photospot, there are a few stairs here, but you can see the falls without climbing the stairs, it’s just not a great view from there.  For the more adverturesome there is also a hike here.  I am not a hiker, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know hiking is not my thing and I actually have a fear of hiking down hill, falling to my death is NOT on my bucket list.  The hike is about 45 minutes and not too strenuous.  There is a bit of up and down hill, but if I can do it, then the average healthy person can do it too.  But it does offer some great views and a breathe of fresh air.  I did skip the extra bit where you go down close to the falls, mostly because I wasn’t sure I would make it back to the bus on time, the people who went said the hill was pretty steep and the view wasn’t that much better.  Of course this hike makes more sense if you have someone to pick you up at the end.  I believe there is a bus system at Yellowstone, but I don’t have a clue how it works, but it may be an option.

The West Thumb Geyser Basin is another beautiful spot at Yellowstone.  Although this is a “geyser basin” the area isn’t known for its geyser activity, instead it has colorful, deep and really hot pools of water.  We stopped at the Abyss and Black Pools.  The pools are beautiful and unique, and just a treat to see.  This area also provides a great view of Yellowstone Lake.

Yellowstone Falls and the West Thumb Geyser Basin should be on everyones list of places to stop at while in Yellowstone.  They are beautiful and offer totally different landscapes and pretty ones at that. They are also very different landscapes then Mud Volcano and Mammoth Hot Springs.

Have you been to either?  Which is your favorite?

Jan 30

Yellowstone – Mud Volcano and Mammoth Hot Springs

Ok, I’ll admit it, neither Mud Volcano nor Mammoth Hot Springs are the prettiest places in Yellowstone.  But they are interesting because they are different then the typical landscapes you would see elsewhere.

Mud Volcano is where the not pretty is emphasized.  Unless of course you like mud…  The landscape here is similar to several other areas of Yellowstone, except instead of pretty water there is a mud like substance.  Mud Volcano was discovered in the 1870s, and “went off” shortly after.  It has left behind as a smelly, bubbling spring.  It would be wrong of me not to warn you, the place smells of sulfur or rotten eggs.  But because of its uniqueness it’s worth a quick visit, I just would choose to do a hike in this area.

Mammoth Hot Springs have an interesting formation, from the NPS website, “The step-like terraces form as heated water moves along the Morris-Mammoth Fault. The hot water carries dissolved calcium and bicarbonate to the surface of the terraces where pressure lessens. Carbon dioxide then escapes as gas and the carbonate combines with calcium to precipitate as travertine.” This means that the formations are constantly changing.  You wont notice a difference from day to day, but if you visit years later you may.  If you climb to the top you’ll get the payoff – the view of the valley below is gorgeous.  So, although it’s a hike to the top, it’s worth it.

Jan 16

Yellowstone National Park

Back in June on my Contiki Northern Adventure we had a day and a half stop in Yellowstone.  I’ve been to numerous National Parks, all very beautiful, but Yellowstone is MASSIVE and has a wide variety of beautiful scenery.

On our trip we visited several different areas of the park; Mud Volcano, Yellowstone Falls, Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin and on our last day we visited Old Faithful and West Thumb Geyser Basin.

In this post I’ll just talk about the overall experience there.  First, we were very lucky on our trip, we saw all of the infamous animals, which is not normal for a group traveling as quickly through the park as we did.  Buffalo were everywhere.  Actually, it was annoying the second day when we were stuck in traffic by all the people who apparently had not seen a Buffalo and were not used to seeing them everywhere.  Yes, Buffalo were everywhere.  As were deer and elk.  But wolves, bears and bald eagles are not everywhere, yet we managed to see them all!

A couple points of interest, Yellowstone is volcanic, as in, one day a volcano will erupt there.  Luckily, this is highly tracked so they’ll know well before it happens.  Yellowstone is also considered our first National Park.  But most importantly, it was chilly there for June.  Hey, when you’re sensitive to the cold that is an important detail.

But if you’re planning a trip here you really need to plan.  There are so many different types of things to do there, that you really need to plan what types of things you are interested in doing and find the best spots to do them.  If you just show up there, you’ll drive by pretty lakes and stuff, but you’ll miss the most interesting sites, some of which don’t sound like the most intersting from their names.

Have you been?  What are your favorite areas of the park?

Nov 07

Mount Rushmore And All The Presidents Heads

After Badlands, Wall Drug and the Corn Palace we finally moved on to one to one of the more anticipated stops of our trip, Mount Rushmore and 2 whole nights in the same hotel.

We headed out early in the morning for Mount Rushmore, only a 10 minute drive from our hotel in Keystone.  The setting is absolutely gorgeous, and we had a great day.  Sadly, we only had about an hour and a half at Mt. Rushmore, which wasn’t quite enough time.

We started out in the visitors center, which gives nice views of the mountain from the inside (handy if you’re visiting in bad weather).  Inside the visitors center they show a short film about the making of Mount Rushmore, it’s a great little movie and will make you appreciate the lengths they went to in creating this. it was all done with dynamite!  There is also a series of displays about the making of Rushmore and a small shop.  There is a much larger shop at the entrance to the park.

There is a lovely trail at the site that goes around the amphitheatre and gives some different views of the Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt.  It also has some museum like stops where you can see some of the models used in the design of Mount Rushmore.  The trail takes about a half an hour and if you start on the left the end of the trail involves walking up a lot of stairs.  Not fun when you have to meet the bus!  But the walk is worth it on a nice day to get a little closer and see the presidents heads from a different angle.

Amphitheater

Mount Rushmore was a great stop, one I was quite excited about on this trip.  It has a beautiful setting, and was where my tour did our group photo.  I also got the opportunity to kill someone in our assasins game on the tour.  Of course I was assasinated shortly after, but it was fun while it lasted.

Oct 24

Badlands National Park

After my trip through the National Parks I had dinner with one of my Aunts, she told me how one of her nieces had gone to Badlands National Park and didn’t really like it.  It turns out she had done the National Parks in the opposite order I did them.  It made me wonder what my impression would have been if I had not done Badlands as my first park.

I really liked Badlands National Park, my first impression was that it was a smaller, less dramatic and more muted (color wise) version of the Grand Canyon.  I don’t mean that to put it down, it’s hard to live up to the reputation of the Grand Canyon and this wasn’t quite as great, but it was still spectacular.  It was also HOT!  But there were some beautiful landscapes here too.

After talking to my Aunt I thought about it in the context of having seen the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Bryce and Zion.  And of those 5 parks, Badlands was the least exciting of them all.  The colors were not as exciting as Bryce and Zion, the landscape wasn’t as varied as Yellowstone and it simply wasn’t as grand or majestic as the Grand Canyon.  It’s still a great park, but a little lower on the list of the great parks.

What does this mean, should you skip it?  No, I wouldn’t skip it.  But I would suggest doing it before some of the other big named parks, or at least not on the same trip where the comparison is so easy.