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Trip Report Flew in/out LV, Zion, north rim GC and Yellowstone 9 days! We're back!

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In January I had posted asking for info on the above itinerary and most said it was really two trips and to spend more time doing all the NP's in southern Utah. But the hubby has a cousin who lives outside of Yellowstone so we wanted to go up there and flew in/out of LV because of cheap air fare, even though I agree w/ much of the feedback that that wasn't real practical. There was one poster who said, "This is a trip I might do if I was 30 years younger, so that inspired us to say, what the heck.. Remember it was our first trip out west and of course you can't see everything but boy did we see a lot and to quote someone here it sure was sensory overload.

Day 1: Arrived LV at 9:30 a.m. and our first rude awakening was when we found out that the Budget car we had rented only allowed us to go in 4 states! I had never heard of such a thing. And Wyoming and Montana were not on the list. So we ended up shopping around and getting a little Kia Rio from Avis that was $150 cheaper than the previous one I had reserved and we could drive it anywhere we wanted. (Plus it got 40 miles, yes, 40 miles to the gallon, so for the 2500 miles we drove we were WAY below what we had budgeted for gas....YEA!) So grabbed our luggage and got on the road at 11:30 a.m. grabbed a quick bite and headed out toward Zion. Took a poster's advice and stopped, got a cooler and filled it with water, snacks, etc and headed for Springdale. Arrived at 3:30 p.m. Stayed at the Bumbleberry Inn, which was ok. Drove to the Visitor's Center and already knew from this site that we couldn't drive in the park so took the tour shuttle that lasted 80 minutes but we got off and did some of the short walks. (We aren't big time hikers. The only walks I marked off for us to do were the ones listed as 'easy'. It was just gorgeous and nothing like we had ever seen before....remember we live up here in what I like to call Second Amendment Land and don't get out much...;-) We also had a great view of the park from our hotel room. Had dinner at the Whiptail Grill which I had read about on a couple of websites. It was wonderful. We got the fish tacos and the stuffed pepper and shared them. Delicious, although Mike commented that "fish don't belong in tacos"... we actually saw them on some other menus on our trip so maybe it's a southwest thing. Went for a walk, did a bit of nosing around the shops. It was a lovely first day of vacation.

Day 2: On the road at 8:00 a.m. to head to the North Rim!!! I was so excited and looking forward to this part of the trip and sort of thinking of Yellowstone as an afterthought. Boy was I wrong there, but more on that later. The drive down to the north rim was just beautiful and UT-9 actually takes you right through Zion, it was breathtaking and I quickly ran out of words to describe all that we were seeing. Spotted our first mule deer on 67 so jumped out w/ the binoculars. We arrived north rim around noon I think. Really liked how the road deadends into the canyon and there is nothing there except the lodge. We did a few of the easy walks right there by the lodge and it's kind of scary staring straight down. They had told us to look for condors and eagles over the canyon and I thought I had spotted one when Mike informed me that what I was looking at was actually a helicoptor!!!! I couldn't believe it and we laughed about it but it sure does show the vastness of the canyon. Our room was ok, about what I expected as from what I had read I kept my expectations low. The dinner at the lodge dining room was our least favorite of the entire trip. I had made a reservation a couple of weeks earlier. We both had the prime rib and agreed we had both had better. But the service was really good and of course you can't beat the view. They had only been open two days when we were there. Just as an aside, I'm really glad we picked the end of May to go. Weather was good, less crowds with kids still in school. I can't imagine what Yellowstone would be like in the summer with so many more people. We walked around a bit after dark, it was so cool. We both woke up early and walked to the edge to see the sunrise the next morning.....sigh.

Day 3: We knew this would be our long day so got on the road at 5:30 a.m. as soon as it was light and headed north. Our original plan was to take 15 to SLC and see how we felt and if we wanted to get closer to Yellowstone so we'd have less driving the next day. We stopped a lot and stretched our legs so it wasn't too bad and arrived SLC at 1:30 p.m. Correction: arrived at Pat's BBQ in SLC at 1:30 p.m. This place was on Mike's itinerary since he had seen it on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." It was good. I'm not a big BBQ fan myself, it all sorta tastes the same to me, but loved the ambiance of the place and wished we could have hung around to hear some blues later. But, back on the road at 2:30 p.m. and ended up staying the night in Pocatello, ID where we arrived at 7:00 p.m. This was one of the few nights that I had not reserved a room ahead of time as I didn't know exactly where we'd end up. But our room at the AmericInn, I think, something like that was really nice. Had dinner at Sonic, which we don't have here. When traveling, we always like to eat stuff we can't get at home, but this was sort of like A & W. I think I like their commercials better than their food.

Day 4: On the road at 7:00 a.m. and arrived West Yellowstone at 11:00 a.m. Had lunch and went into the park and had our first bison sighting at 1:05 p.m.!!! They were swarming around the car...the whole herd and a lot of babies in the herd too. It was unreal! One came charging at our little car and his head was just massive....it was hilarious and I was laughing until I was crying. We saw elk, went to Old Faithful and the Paint Pots at West Thumb. The whole geothermal thing....I wasn't sure what to expect but it was amazing. And Mike really liked it too. He loved Yellowstone. I thought he might be bored with it but not at all. It turned out to be the best part of the trip. I see now why people say YS is their favorite, it has so many different parts and it's so huge. So we did quite a bit of walking around and back at the hotel at 7:30 p.m. We stayed at the Clubhouse Inn and really liked it. Originally we had planned on three nights at YS, Fri, Sat and Sun but we ended up cancelling Sun night and heading south a day sooner.

Day 5: 7:00 p.m. on the road to Mammoth Hot Springs! And again....there aren't words to describe it. On the way we saw a grizzly sow and two cubs, it was so cool. Everyone was pulled over to the side of the road. It was just great. We walked up to the top of Mammoth and the view was really expansive and the colors! Now this was the day we were going to visit the cousin and Mike wanted it to be a surprise so we hadn't told her we were coming. But we decided to call and she wasn't there so after all that, we never even got to see her. But that gave us more time to see the park. So we headed to Tower-Roosevelt and the northeast entrance. What a drive. Altogether in YS we saw 3 grizzlies and the two cubs, 3 black bears, 2 brown bears, 2 wolves, endless bison, eagles, antelope and mountain goats. What fun! So then we were heading down to Canyon but the road was closed so we had to go back from whence we had come. We had wanted to drive the whole figure 8 and we almost made it. Back at room at 9:00 p.m.

Day 6: Sunday we slept in, went to church in W. Yellowstone at 10 so got into the park about 11:45 a.m. It's so nice when we travel to go to churches that we've never been to before. So this was going to be our last day in YS and I had an easy walk picked out for us at Fishing Bridge. So we went from W. Yellowstone/Madison/Norris/Canyon/Fishing Bridge/Lake Village/Grant Village and out the sourth entrance. The falls were very nice. We then headed to Jackson, WY where we spent the night. I had been looking forward to this part of the drive and it didn't disappoint the Tetons were gorgeous and we stopped at all of the scenic overlooks on the way. Arrived Jackson at 5:30 p.m.

Day 7: Left Jackson at 7:30 a.m. driving south. The Lander Cut-Off Pass from the Oregon Trail was pretty interesting. I love all that historical stuff. Had lunch in Evanston, WY. Mike asked a local guy for a good Mexican place and he sent us to Don Pedro's by the fairgrounds. It was good. Arrived Cedar City 6:30 p.m. This too was one of our "open" nights w/out a room reserved and I made the mistake of letting Mike pick the hotel. Frugal would be an understatement so you can imagine what the room was like. It was ok, barely, but nothing I would have selected were I traveling alone or w/ the gal pals. We spent the evening trying to decide whether or not to go to Bryce the next day and then head for LV for our last night where we had a room reserved at the Rio. We had thought we might have had time for Bryce this day, but no such luck. So we decided that yes, we'd hit Bryce the next morning.

Day 8: 14 was closed from a rock slide and we didn't want to go around another way so Bryce was suddenly off the agenda. So we went to Hoover Dam instead. I had been there but Mike never had so it turned out good. He really liked it. It is very impressive. The fact that it was 96 that day put a bit of a damper on things but I guess that's to be expected when you travel to the desert, right. So we didn't walk around outside much but did walk over the top of it!! Then we headed to the Rio to try our luck.. We loved our room and it had an awesome view w/ floor to ceiling windows. We did the seafood buffet and it was really good. After dinner we took the shuttle to the strip because everyone has to see the strip at night, right? I hadn't been to LV in several years and Mike had never been there so it was quite a sight. Back to the Rio to goof off and pack because our flight left at 11 the next morning.

Day 9: Flew home (yesterday).

Overall, Yellowstone was probably the most impressive. One thing that Mike noted was if we ever come back, he would want to stay at different places...either in the park or at the different entrances. Because he said you always have to drive on the same road to get back to our hotel in W. Yellowstone. Anyone have any thoughts on this? The figure 8 you drive a lot of the same stretches to get to a new place. We tried to plan our days so that you saw as much as possible and always on new stretches of roads. And it's set up so you can do that fairly easily. Everyone's comments were very helpful in the pre-trip planning. It was a lot of driving....2502 miles, but we saw so many different landscapes and many of them that changed quite quickly as you're driving past. From the GC to Yellowstone and all the mountains, valleys and meadows in between were all a bit different........but we wouldn't do anything differently. But we'll probably never do it again! We'd check out some of the other parks in southern Utah as suggested. Is this a great country, or what?

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