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Trip Report 1st Trip to Yellowstone National Park

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Trip Report for Yellowstone National Park and Wyoming
We flew into Gallatin Field Airport in Bozeman MT on Sunday night. Rented a Suburban from AVIS. Excellent airport and AVIS people/shuttle/rental. Stayed at Comfort Inn Bozeman. Nice room and continental breakfast. We drove to West Yellowstone Monday morning.

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    My family includes my husband and me along with our 2 sons ages 15 and 12. It was the boys first flight. They thought it was cool! After the yummy hotel breakfast we stopped at the WalMart behind the hotel to buy a cooler and stock up on sandwich fixins, drinks, and snacks. On our way to West Yellowstone we saw a grizzly bear at about 10:15 am on Hwy 191, 20 miles from W Yellowstone about 400 yards off the road. We stopped because there were others stopped and looking. After taking some pics and enjoying the view from our car with binocs, we headed on. About 1 mile or so further there were more cars stopped. They had just seen 2 grizzly bears running into the woods. We missed them. We ate an early lunch in West Yellowstone. The boys couldn't pass the Mcdonalds without stopping. Ugh!

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    As we were in line to pay the fee and enter the park, the boys checked out the license plates. They found 18 different states just waiting in line. About 5 miles after entering we saw about 10 elk 250 yards off the road. Took some more pics. Headed to Firehole Falls. Another awesome view. There were many hungry chipmunks along the edge of the road there. Another boy was feeding them something out of his hand! Our boys liked watching them. Headed to Firehole River for a swim. We changed in the two busy bathrooms. Boys loved swimming against the current. Scuba divers were in the water too. They practice there. They said it was 30 feet deep. We went to the Boiling River swim area later on in our trip but the boys liked the Firehole spot better beacuse of the current and the Boiling River was a lot busier. Next we explored the Foutain Paint Pot Trail. We did buy the 50 cent maps everywhere we went for reference and souveniers. The Spasm Geyser was going. The steam hit us in the face. The boys said it was stinky!

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    We had hotel and horseback/cookout reservations in Gardiner for later that day so we started heading north. The construction area between Madison and Norris was more than a 30 minute delay for us. We were in the front of the pack! We enjoyed the views along the way to Gardiner. We checked into The Absaroka Lodge hotel. The hotel was old but we loved the view and sound of the river. Next we went to The Flying Pig Adventure Co in Gardiner MT to receive our map to Hell's A' Roarin Outfitters Ranch near Jardine, MT for a 1 hour horseback ride and cowboy cookout. The drive up to the ranch was on a rough dirt road. Scenic! The ranch was beautiful. The guides were friendly and fun. The horses were very experienced. We were part of a group of 10 with 2 guides. The views along the ride were awesome. The valley and Gallatin Range with Electric Peak at the highest point was picture postcard perfect. After the ride we ate steak or pork chop, beans, corn bread, red potatoes, cole slaw, green salad, 2 kinds of brownies, koolaid, and soda. The 3 boys loved the steaks. I am not much of a meat eater so I just had a few bites but I loved the iced brownie and mango koolaid. After the food, 3 cowboys (from Gonzaga Univ in Washington) sang songs with guitar, campfire, and roasted marshmallows. Very fun! They joked around alot. Hated to leave but... On way down to Gardiner saw an elk.

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    Woke up 5:30 am Tuesday morning. Boys were slow, sleepy so didn't leave hotel til 7 am. Our styrofoam cooler leaked during night. Later we added a large garbage bag inside the cooler - Much Better! Went through the Roosevelt Arch into the park. Very thankful for the foresight of President Roosevelt and National Park system. Chilly morning, wore sweatshirts. Explored Mammoth Hot Springs area with reference map. Took some nice pics of Terraces. Headed to Tower-Roosevelt. Stopped at Undine Falls for view and pics. Stopped at pulloff before Blacktail Plateau Drive with some other vehicles. Hiked up the hill to the group. The group was watching a wolf pack. They did not have them in their scope at that time because the wolves were on the move. They had seen a wolf chase an elk with horns with their scope at 8 am. We heard the wolves howling at 8:30. Took the turnoff road and stopped at the Petrified Tree. Very interesting textures! An Uinta Ground Squirrel was looking for food in the parking area. Not shy! Boys liked talking to it. Stopped at Calcite Springs and Bleached Cliff. The white washed wall along the blue water was beautiful. The interesting rock line formation along the cliff looked like lines of soldiers standing at attention! Next stop Tower Falls.

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    Stopped at the Tower Falls General Store for ice cream for our walk to the falls. They enjoyed the Moose Tracks ice cream. Beautiful view at Tower Falls. The base trail was closed. Just after Alum Creek saw 2 big buffalo. The one was on the left side of the road just 5 feet off in a dirt area he had dug up at some time. He was laying horizontal to road ready for a few quick pics no place to stop until after but did not want to walk back to take pics. Needed the safety of the car! We have a buffalo farm near us but this was so much more. This buffalo was huge, steamy and wild! We saw a few Pelicans in Alum Creek. Stopped at Lake General Store to browse. Stopped at a picnic area along Lake just after the Lake Hotel. Lunch was from our cooler as was our yogurt breakfast. Some of the trees in the picnic area had large claw scrapes and rubs on them. Interesting! Checked out Lewis Falls. Boys said they wanted to see the Grand Tetons and the Dam so decided to drive to catch the view. We were the first car in the road construction line, stopped for 30 min, just after the Flagg Ranch info center. The first view of the Tetons was awesome! The Jackson Lake Dam was roaring loudly. The boys thought it was cool! Talked about crazy stunts they'd like to do-thankfully it is all talk! Headed up Signal Mtn Summit Trail. Beautiful panoramic view of the Tetons and Snake River. Liked the Jackson Point Overlook too. Stopped at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, very busy area. Talked to the ranger about the hike and time to allow but we did not feel we had enough time for the hike (reason to come back:). Drove to Jackson. Walked to Town Square. Pics at Town Square Antler Arch. Ate quick picnic dinner from cooler in visitor center parking lot. Headed back to YNP. Reservations at Canyon Village Cabin for night. On drive back, took pics of beautiful views of Teton Range in different light, angles. Saw deer after Oxbow Bend. Road construction delay was only 15 min this time! Just after Grant Village turnoff saw elk. Crossed Continental Divide 3 times. The lily pads and flowers on Isla Lake were pretty. It took about 2 1/2 hours from Jackson to Old Faithful. When arrived at Old Faithful it was a 50 min wait til predicted eruption so walked around the Geyser Hill trail. Good to stretch legs. Very interesting springs/geysers! Dark and stormy looking. Went back to Old Faithful benches. Old Faithful erupted just after predicted time. It was nice but not as impressive as we expected. The boys thought it would be alot higher. Walked through the Old Faithful Inn. Beautiful door. The interior was interesting but dark. The staircase was detailed and smooth and the balconies offered a nice view of fireplace. As we headed to our car rain started sprinkling. Didn't last long. Saw 4 Buffalo on the road. One large, 1 medium and 2 small. A semi made them move off the road:(. Checked into Canyon Village Cabin at 10 pm. Nice room with bathroom and small shower stall. Neat soaps - 1 was a bear and 1 had the center hole for waste reducing! All fell asleep easily. Up at 6:20 Wednesday. Brr cold! Breakfast from cooler. Stopped at the Canyon Village Gift Shop they had the $5 promo gifts today. Bought some souveniers. Headed to Canyon South Rim Drive.

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    Thanks for TR--enjoying it; your memories are nice to share as I continue sorting through our 5000+ pics of our July trip (2 weeks, 4 days in Yellowstone). Write more soon! I know how valuable these TR's are for both ourselves and others. I posted mine before I forgot stuff!

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    Enjoying your trip report. You really covered alot of ground. Had to laugh at the license plates. A couple of months ago we drove around Colorado in a rental car with Florida plates (we picked up the car at the airport in Denver-- we're from Ohio). Used to be fun to see where people were from -- now you never really know. Don't have to tell your kids -- it's still a fun pastime for them.

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    On our way to the Canyon South Rim Drive our youngest son was the first to spot a deer with horns. The horns were covered with velvet. We pulled over to snap some pics and so did some others after us. The boys thought the horns with velvet were very impressive. Parked at Uncle Toms parking area. Walked along the South Rim trail. Literally breathtaking views of Lower Falls and Canyon with some steep edges along walkway. Stopped at all the lookout spots along the way to Artist point. The view from Artist Point was amazing but alot busier. On way back stopped at the Upper Falls viewpoint loved the pic with bridge in background. Very private hike to Artist Point and back - only met 2 single hikers and 2 families. The total time for this hike was 1 hour 45 min. We did not do the stairs down into the Canyon; the boys said they were tired from the walk - next time we come:). Drove over to the Brink of the Upper Falls - beautiful mist up along wall from falls. Loud rushing water over falls. We have so many beautiful pics of the falls and canyon. Boys wanted to go swim now. Stopped at Roosevelt Lodge for lunch. Neat door hinges. The bathroom sinks were beautiful green marble I think. Husband had special - stuffed mushroom swiss burger, boys had Montana Ranch Burger and BBQ chicken, and I had the Taco Salad with black beans. All enjoyed our food, I was happy to have non-picnic food. The front porch was full of people enjoying the rocking chairs. Drove toward Mammoth Hot Springs to swim. Very large impressive 6 x 6 horns in velvet bull elk napping just 40 feet off the road before the creek. Stopped for some pics. Probably more than 50 elk (some had velvet horns) including babies were on the grounds in Mammoth Hot Springs. Wow they sure like to eat the grass and lay under the shade trees! Headed to the Boiling River parking area just before bridge on way to Gardiner. We waited for about 5 min for parking spot. Boys changed in car while we changed in the busy bathroom in parking lot. Walked to the swimming area - nice path. The swimming area was very crowded. The water was burning hot in spots. The boys liked swimming against the current again. They said they liked the Firehole River swimming area better since it wasn't as crowded and the current was stronger. For both swimming areas Crocs or something like it on the feet will help with walking on the rocks. At 3 pm decided it was time to leave the park via Tower-Roosevelt and Lamar Valley. All the elk were still on the lawns of Mammoth Hot Springs. The bull elk was still sleeping after the Creek just under a different tree. In Lamar Valley after Slough Creek turnoff we stopped at a busy area. Many buffalo were in the valley and several pronghorn antelope were on the hill. Stopped for pics. Seen cacti there. Stopped at next pulloff to view a pronghorn antelope up closer. Many buffalo along this route. Near Pebble Creek saw a black bear moving into the woods about 300 yards off road. Many people stopped and looking at the bear; took a couple pics before the bear moved into the woods. At the construction spot before Cooke City we were 2nd car in line waited about 20 min. Enjoyed the views along the Beartooth Hwy until the Hwy 296 Chief Joseph Scenic Hwy turnoff for Cody. Along both Highways held on tight for some of the road edge dropoffs and switchbacks! Never seen so many mountains, especially from the top down!! It was very cold 53 degrees at one point at top of Mountain. Then 20 minutes later up to 82 again when traveled down the mountain. Reached Cody at 6:15 pm but did not stop - next time:). Traveled along Hwy 14/16/20 through some small towns population 10 and 50! Beautiful red rock hills and more switchbacks and scary drive up mountains. Stopped at the Shell Falls visitor center - very nice restrooms and trail to falls. The falls lookout was beautiful! Continued on to Sheridan, WY saw many deer and mule deer. Near Burgess Junction just before dusk saw cars stopped and looking so we stopped. A big moose with large rack of horns was grazing in the open valley. Amazing! Stayed at newer Motel 6 in Sheridan 9:30 pm - nice room and beds. Thursday morning stopped for groceries and went to Big Horn Mountains to stay at cousin's cabin through Saturday. Beautiful view, relaxing and private. A nice change from the busy YNP and all the road construction. Saturday late morning headed back to Bozeman MT for flight home. We sure enjoyed our trip to YNP and Big Horn Mtns. The boys keep talking about what they want to see/do next time we go!! They definitely want to river raft next time! Hope you enjoyed our trip report!

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    Thanx for posting your trip report, MelRod! We're going to the same places in mid-September, so the info was helpful and interesting! We'll definitely watch for the wildlife!

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    Another thing I thought of...
    Our trip dates were Sunday, August 2 through Saturday, August 8, 2009.
    Mornings and nights were cold - sweatshirts, blankets; afternoons were warm, high 70's and low 80's,- shorts and t-shirts.
    We are familiar with longer drives traveling for the boys sports, so they kept busy in the Suburban (they loved the suv) with PSP games, MP3 players, playing cards, searching for wildlife, and license plate games. We have a book of state license plates to help track the plates down. They easily fell asleep in the car too.
    We are not "foodies" as you can tell by the trip report but did enjoy the cookout in Jardine MT and Roosevelt Lodge lunch; would definitely eat at both again! My husband and I are happy with anything other than McDonalds and Subway!
    The places we stayed were nice; all we needed was just a place to sleep. We did not spend much time there. Most were overpriced, IMO, probably due to the tourist season.
    The planning for the trip was mainly my responsiblity, the boys did not want to look into much of that. They did watch a few Yellowstone/GTNP DVDs and look at pics in Yellowstone/GTNP books from the library. Before we left all they wanted to see was the Teton mtn range up close! Since I was planning, my main interest was the waterfalls and canyon. Every waterfall was better than expected in person!! Seeing all the wildlife without being out before dawn was a bonus!
    We did experience some altitude problems - out of breath easier, dry throat/thirsty (drank more water than ever) and 2 bloody noses.
    Driving time (with a few stops along Lamar Valley) from Boiling River near Mammoth Hot Springs out of the park at the Northeast entrance through Cooke City along Beartooth and Chief Joseph scenic hwys to Cody, WY was 3 1/2 hours. Cody to Sheridan with 1 stop at Shell Falls was 3 1/4 hours. We put 1,223 miles on the Suburban during our trip!
    One last thing, I think...within the parks don't expect to see billboards announcing sightseeing locations to plan for the next stop or the blue hwy signs showing the restaurants at the next town. Thankfully it was just natural beauty!!! But it was hard to locate some places along the way. There are brown signs for the towns/villages, take the turns and go into the villages to find the visitor centers/stores/sights.
    We are definitely looking forward to our next visit!! Probably in 2 years. We will start planning earlier next time.

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